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Fortis Enters New York Market with Long Term Care Insurance.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 24, 1999--Fortis, a national leader in long term care insurance, will be entering New York state with long term care insurance policies through it's Syracuse-based affiliate, First Fortis. New York state residents will be able to purchase these newest products beginning mid-March.

First Fortis Life Insurance Company has an "AA" or "Excellent" rating from Standard & Poor's and an "A" or "Excellent" rating from A.M. Best.

"The New York market is very important to us," said Steve Wnuk, spokesperson for First Fortis. "Our research indicates that New York consumers are ready for a new choice in long term care coverage. We're confident our strong portfolio, competitive pricing and high ratings will be welcomed by state residents.

"Ratings are especially important for consumers purchasing long term care insurance, as those consumers are insuring against a risk that may occur several years after the purchase. Our high ratings are an assurance to consumers that we will be there for them in the future whenever they need us," Wnuk said.

First Fortis tax-qualified policies are designed as "pool of money" benefit accounts from which expenses are paid for the full continuum of care, including home health, nursing home and alternative care. Coverage also includes all levels of care, such as skilled, intermediate or custodial care. First Fortis long term care also will offer a New York State Partnership policy. Policy forms marketed in New York include 4062, 4063 and 4051.

With First Fortis's tax-qualified policies, premiums are deductible up to certain limits and benefit payments are not considered taxable income under federal law. In New York state, this deduction is taken from the federal adjusted gross income; it is not itemized under medical care. As a result, New York State taxpayers who do not itemize still can benefit from the deductibility of long term care insurance premiums.

Under First Fortis's New York Partnership plan, consumers can qualify for Medicaid based on income but without spending down assets. Without a Partnership plan, Medicaid is only accessible to people who spend down their assets. In New York state, single persons can access Medicaid only when they have less than $3,450 in assets excluding a home, according to the New York State Office for the Aging.

Many mistakenly think government will cover the cost of long term care. Medicare only covers short-term stays after hospitalization and does not cover nursing home stays beyond 100 days. The average stay in a nursing home is 2.5 years, according to the October 1997 Consumer Reports. According to the New York State Department of Health, people who live in the New York metropolitan area, including Long Island and Westchester County, face an average annual nursing home bill greater than $89,000; those in the upstate counties of New York can expect to pay over $66,000, on average, for a year in a nursing home.

The average life expectancy at the turn of this century will be 76 years--an increase of almost 30 years since the beginning of the 20th century, according to the 1996 U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. With growing longevity comes increasing odds of needing long term care. Nearly 50 percent of all Americans who reach age 65 are projected to spend time in a skilled nursing facility, a 1996 American Association of Retired Persons National Nursing Home Study found.

"How we plan for long term care--the physical, mental and social care given to those who have severe, chronic impairments--will be one of America's most significant issues in the new millennium," Wnuk said.

Long term care includes home health care, assisted living facilities, adult day care centers and nursing home care. It can come in the form of skilled care, which is the most intensive; intermediate care, similar to skilled care except that it is provided on a periodic basis; and custodial care, which involves assistance with everyday activities such as bathing, dressing and eating.

Fortis companies have been writing long term care policies since 1987. One of our companies' tax-qualified policies was recently ranked best in its class in a leading consumer magazine. First Fortis Life Insurance Company offers insurance and investment products in New York state, including long term care insurance policies and variable annuity contracts, group life, accident and health, and credit insurance policies.

First Fortis is part of Fortis, Inc., a financial services company that, through its operating companies and affiliates, provides specialty insurance and investment products to businesses, associations, financial service organizations and individuals in the U.S. Fortis, Inc., is part of the international Fortis group, which operates in the fields of insurance, banking and investments.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Mar 24, 1999
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