Almost 20% (19.7%) of long-term insurance claims begin in assisted living communities, according to an analysis of 2017 claims data released Friday by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

The finding dispels myths that such insurance is used only for nursing home care, said Jesse Slome, director of the long-term care insurance organization.

Although the association found that 28.2% of long-term care insurance claims start in nursing homes, the highest percentage, 52.1%, begin in homes. And most claims start and end where they begin, Slome said.

“People continue to mistakenly associate long-term care insurance exclusively with skilled nursing home care,” he said.

The AALTCI reviewed data from six undisclosed long-term care insurance companies that Slome called industry leaders. U.S. long-term care insurance companies paid $9.2 billion in claim benefits in 2017 to 295,000 beneficiaries, the association found. Both the dollar amount paid and the number of people receiving benefits continue to grow, Slome said.

Overall, women accounted for 68% of newly opened claims in 2017. Fifteen percent of new claims by women started in assisted living communities, Slome told McKnight’s Senior Living, compared with 19% in nursing homes and 34% in homes. Of claims started by men, 8.5% began in assisted living, he said.

The average age of a policy purchaser today is 56, according to the AALTCI.

“After age 70, it’s almost impossible to get long-term care insurance protection, so the industry needs messaging and information that will convince people to plan ahead,” Slome said. The AALTCI also recommends to insurance companies that they move away from focusing mostly on nursing home costs in their literature.

Potential buyers of long-term care insurance, he said, must be educated that “prices are based on the age when you first apply, and insurers carefully assess health, which rarely gets better after one reaches 65.”

For consumers concerned with news of recent rate hikes, Slome said that rate hikes on older policies likely will not occur on newer policies being sold today. “Insurers have priced currently offered policies so that there is minimal, if any, risk that policyholders will face future rate increases,” he said.