On this blog I have posted several items about class action lawsuits against Genworth Financial, Inc. (Genworth) relating to premium increases on long-term care (LTC) insurance policies. The two most recent are No. 334 (9/26/19) and No. 337 (10/17/19). Here I discuss an individual consumer's complaint to a state insurance regulator relating to a Genworth premium increase, and an ironic incident that occurred more than 20 years ago.
The Genworth Notification
The consumer purchased the policy in 1996. Genworth recently notified the consumer of an 80 percent premium increase. The letter, with the emphasis in the original and over the signature of a senior company officer, reads:
Thank you for choosing Genworth for your long term care insurance needs. We value your business and are committed to providing quality service and being here when you need us the most.
This letter is to inform you that, as a result of higher than expected aggregate policyholder claims costs, the premium on your current long term care coverage will increase from ––– to ––– beginning on your next billing anniversary date, –––. Please refer to the enclosed Coverage Options page and Important information page for more details. Please note that this increase is not due to a change in your health, age, or claims history.
We appreciate the financial difficulty premium increases can cause. That is why we are offering coverage adjustment options to help you manage your premium cost while still maintaining important coverage. The enclosed pages outline these options along with your personalized information. We encourage you to discuss your options with your financial advisor or a member of our Customer Service Team by calling (877) 710-0817 before making a decision. For additional information regarding premium increases, we encourage you to visit www.genworth.com/ltcpremiums.
Once again, thank you for being a Genworth policyholder.
The Consumer Complaint
The consumer filed a complaint with the regulator in the state where the consumer resides. The complaint reads:
I have had this Long Term Care Insurance since 1996 and have diligently paid over $27,000 of premiums. Having this Long Term Care Insurance was a key component of my plan to ensure I had adequate care as I aged. Now as I am entering a time of my life when I could very well need this insurance, Genworth has increased the quarterly premium from ––– to ––– (+80%!) which I cannot afford on my very limited budget. They have offered alternative plans however all these options reduce the benefits drastically to the point where I may not have adequate long term care as planned for 23 years ago. I feel this is very unfair and unjustified.
It is clear that Genworth is no longer a reliable and trusted Long Term Care Insurer. Genworth has found a path forward which maximizes its profits but leaves me highly exposed to Long Term Care costs. I feel that they should honor their policy with an immediate payout of the maximum benefit currently contained in my policy ($314,000). This would allow me the chance to live out my life in good care and Genworth to sever its relationship with me as a good corporate citizen.
The Regulatory Reply
A rate review policy analyst in the state insurance department responded to the consumer complaint. The letter reads:
Thank you for taking the time to send in your complaint regarding your long term care policy with Genworth. After a thorough actuarial review, [we] did approve a rate increase for Genworth long term care policies. The current policies in place are not generating sufficient premium to pay future claims to policyholders. This is a common problem for a number of insurers nationwide because policyholders are keeping their policies longer than expected and are living longer than projected, thus using more benefits than the company anticipated when the policies were originally sold. Additionally, the cost of providing long-term care is increasing at a rate much higher than anticipated.
[We] do not have the authority to require the company to take the action you have requested. However, the company has provided several options to mitigate the rate increase.
I know this is not the information you were hoping to receive but I hope it's at least helpful. Please let us know if you have any further questions. Thank you.
An Ironic Incident
My first article about LTC insurance was in the February 1988 issue of The Insurance Forum, the monthly newsletter I edited for 40 years until I shut it down in 2013 and started my blog. In the May 1997 issue I wrote about a promotional letter I had just received concerning guaranteed renewable LTC insurance offered by General Electric Capital Assurance Company, a predecessor of Genworth. The letter included this sentence, with this underlining: "Your premiums will never increase because of your age or any changes in your health." I wrote the company expressing concern that the sentence, although technically correct, was deceptive. I said the promotional letter should make clear that the company has the right to increase premiums on a class basis.
The company officer who had signed the promotional letter responded. He defended the sentence by saying, among other things, that the company had never raised rates on existing policyholders and had an "internal commitment to rate stability." Nonetheless, and without telling me, the company removed the deceptive sentence from its promotional letters. I wrote about the incident in the May 1997 and February 1998 issues of the Forum. Those articles are in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post.
The Genworth 2019 Annual Meeting
In the above mentioned No. 334, I discussed the annual meeting of Genworth's shareholders to be held on December 12, 2019, if the long-delayed merger agreement with China Oceanwide has not been completed by that date. On November 1, 2019, Genworth circulated proxy materials related to the 2019 annual meeting, and indicated that the merger has not yet been completed. Readers interested in the proxy materials may access them here.
During the six years I have been blogging, I have received many emails from individuals concerning problems with LTC insurance. Some related to claims practices, and some related to premium increases. It pained me to tell them I am neither an attorney nor a consultant, and am not in a position to comment beyond what I have written. However, I did try to make sure they knew how to find my blog posts on LTC insurance, and some of the email exchanges led to further posts.
For many years I have said that the LTC exposure violates several important insurance principles, and for that reason the problem of financing the LTC exposure cannot be solved through the mechanism of private insurance. I explained the situation in an article in the July 2008 issue of the Forum. That article is in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post.
I have also said that even the federal government cannot solve the problem of financing the LTC exposure through a voluntary system. Rather, it can be solved by the government only through a mandatory system that is part of a mandatory, single-payer system of universal health care. I discussed this matter in No. 310 (April 22, 2019) in the section entitled "General Observations."
In Chapter 18 of my 2015 book, The Insurance Forum: A Memoir, I summarized my experiences with LTC insurance. The chapter is in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post. The book is available for purchase at www.theinsuranceforum.com.
I am offering an 18-page complimentary package consisting of the May 1997, February 1998, and July 2008 Forum articles (9 pages) and Chapter 18 of the Memoir (9 pages). Send an email to email@example.com and ask for the December 2019 package about LTC insurance.