There is gender bias in long-term care insurance costs

News and Views from Rita

Just as many retiring baby boomers are seeking to buy long-term care insurance, the companies that provide it are making it more difficult to purchase by raising premiums, weakening coverage and charging women higher rates than men.

According to data from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, premiums have risen dramatically in just the last year, by an average of 10 percent for couples and 20 percent for singles.

Alternatively, more companies are giving customers the option to buy cheaper plans that do not offer inflation protection and will likely result in considerably lower benefits.

Companies are also increasingly charging women higher rates than men for long-term care insurance.

The Affordable Care Act made it illegal to charge women to pay steeper rates than men for their health insurance. The government should take steps to give women the same protection when it comes to long term care insurance, and to make long term care insurance more affordable for all retirees.

More about the Social Security “chained CPI” COLA proposal

This month of May is officially named “Older Americans Month” wherein we “Unleash the Power of Age.” So folks, let’s do it. We need to keep in touch with our elected officials and let them know that “we ain’t dead yet so don’t treat us like we are.”

Last month I attempted to explain the chained CPI (COLA), and even if my explanation didn’t help you, you do need to know that it will decrease your Social Security payment. If you do not want this to happen, I urge you to get in touch with your senators and congressman as soon as possible. They need to hear from you and now. Our president needs to hear from you. He must not sign any bill that would hurt seniors this much. You can call the president at (202) 456-1111 or you can go onto his Web site and write to him.

Social Security is not driving the deficit, therefore it should not be part of reforms aimed at cutting the deficit. The chained CPI, deceptively portrayed as a reasonable cost of living adjustment, is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors.

There are several sensible reforms to Social Security that should be considered to help make it sustainable, including lifting the ceiling on income subject to Social Security from $113,700 to $200,000 or more, as well as instituting a 1 percent raise in the payroll tax rate, a rate that hasn’t changed in over 20 years.

Both of these reforms would go a long way toward protecting the long-term health of Social Security. Please stand by your Democratic principles and fight to protect Social Security benefits. Remember, Social Security is a trust Fund that Congress has been raiding for years.

CPI calculation assumes that a lower COLA is accurate because consumers can substitute cheaper products when prices go up but that does not hold true for many of seniors’ expenses. Seniors cannot substitute a triple bypass surgery with a double because it is cheaper, for example, and there are no easy substitutions for a hip replacement. According to Social Security Works, an average earner retiring in 2011 at the age of 65 would experience a benefit cut of over $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted.

Social Security benefits are already quite modest for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year and for 70 percent of them, Social Security makes up the majority of their livelihoods. It’s very troubling that our president would propose cuts to this critical lifeline.

As always, if you agree or disagree, I would like to hear from you.

Rita Hatch volunteers for Older Persons Action Group’s Medicare Counseling and Assistance program. Call her at 276-1059 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-1059 toll-free statewide. Her e-mail address is

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