At the height of the pandemic last year, nursing homes became the epicenter of the contagion. Their residents and staff accounted for one-third of all Covid-related deaths in the U.S. The repercussions on the long-term care (LTC) insurance market soon became unmistakable.

Heightened Interest
First, overall interest in LTC planning, a subject that's often put on a back burner, became intense.

Brian Gordon, president of LTC insurance specialist Murray A. Gordon & Associates/MAGA in Bannockburn, Ill., said clients who had rejected LTC coverage a few years ago came back with a change of heart. "They are thinking about the issue and getting serious about planning for the future," he said. "They see how it gives the family direction and a plan for care, some of which is due to their experiences with Covid, whether they had it themselves or a friend or family member did."

More Emphasis On Home Care
Second, clients and insurance carriers alike put more emphasis on coverage that allows you to remain in your own home when you need care, instead of having to be institutionalized.

The pandemic "dramatically impacted both the interest and the way knowledgeable specialists market the protection," said Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI) in Los Angeles.

The industry began stressing the fact that "the majority of LTC insurance claims pay for home-care services," he says—in response to rising interest for this coverage option.

Stricter Underwriting Requirements
At the same time, however, it's become harder than ever for clients to secure traditional, standalone LTC insurance if they don't already have it.

"The pandemic certainly affected the underwriting criteria used for accepting or rejecting new applications," said David Beck, an insurance agent and partner at Egan, Berger & Weiner in Vienna, Va. "The number of people who could actually obtain coverage was greatly diminished."

One client of Beck's was told she'd be turned down unless she completed a full face-to-face physical exam; a medical history, virtual exam, and recent blood work wouldn't suffice. "This guideline was not in existence prior to Covid," said Beck.

He anticipates greater scrutiny of medical records going forward.

In addition, there are more age restrictions and more pre-existing medical conditions deemed uninsurable. Recent travel to certain foreign countries now trigger automatic postponements of applications and claims; residents of certain states where Covid was high are also automatically delayed or denied.

"One major insurer now requires a 90-day waiting period after full recovery [from Covid], and another has a six-month waiting period," before benefits claims are honored, added Slome at the AALTCI.

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