New Hampshire Supreme Court Strikes Down Long-Term Care Insurance Premium Rate Increase Caps

The New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled that New Hampshire’s regulation that places certain caps on long-term care insurance premium rate increases exceeds the Insurance Commissioner’s rulemaking authority and, therefore, is invalid. See Genworth Life Ins. Co. v. New Hampshire Dep’t of Ins., No. 2019-0727, 2021 WL 621005 (N.H. Feb. 17, 2021).

Some states, either by regulation or administrative practice, place caps on long-term care insurance premium rate increases. In 2015, New Hampshire promulgated amended long-term care insurance regulations that capped premium rate increases based on an insured’s attained age and applied the new caps retroactively to all long-term care insurance policies issued in the state (Amended Regulations). See generally N.H. Code Admin. R. § 19. As drafted, the regulation did not afford the Commissioner discretion to approve increases that exceed the caps. The rate caps were implemented on a sliding scale from 50 percent for all policyholders with attained ages 70 and below down to 10% for policyholders with attained ages over 90. As with caps implemented by other states, the caps adopted by New Hampshire had no actuarial basis.

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Recent Developments in LTC Rate Increase Litigation

A relatively consistent flow of premium rate increase litiga­tion has been filed against long-term care (LTC) carriers over the past several years. Following the plaintiffs’ bar having early success in a limited number of LTC rate increase class actions in the early 2000s, the tide turned definitively in favor of carriers in what we think of as the first generation of such litigation, where the plaintiffs’ bar focused primarily on an alleged duty to disclose possible rate increases and challenging the language of the contract itself. Despite the industry’s over­all success, premium rate increase litigation has attracted an increased level of sophistication from the plaintiffs’ bar, which shifted to more creative theories based on extra-contractual rep­resentations (e.g., marketing materials) in what we view as the second generation of premium rate increase litigation. While the industry remains mostly successful in warding off rate in­crease litigation, a new trend may be developing as recent cases focus on more nuanced contractual limitations and rate increase implementation issues.

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LTC Rate Increases: Exploring Alternatives

As issues surrounding the cost of long-term care for Americans becomes the focus of the industry, premium rate increases have historically been necessary to maintain the financial integrity of most blocks of stand-alone long-term care insurance (LTCI) business. In conjunction with those rate increases, insurers have offered (and regulators have approved) an evolving menu of rate increase mitigation options for policyholders who do not wish to or otherwise cannot afford to pay the increased rate. Recently, we have seen new and innovative alternatives proposed by industry participants. There is a growing recognition that insureds should be educated about the nature of their existing coverage and presented with a variety of options in the alternative to paying the approved rate increase amount. In the past few months alone, insurers are offering, and regulators are approving (and sometimes even requesting), an even wider variety of options, such as modifying existing coverage, reducing available benefit, or  taking a reduced paid-up policy, policy buyouts and even “hybrid” policy buyouts.

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