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Long-Term Care 'Open Season' Offers Streamlined Enrollments

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2002 – Military members, federal employees, and their spouses, have a six-month window starting today to take advantage of a streamlined application process for the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program.

Federal personnel officials estimate that 20 million people may be eligible to enroll. The insurance is offered by the John Hancock and MetLife insurance companies through a contract with the Office of Personnel Management.

"The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is pleased to sponsor this important new benefit program, which is likely to be the largest employer-sponsored long-term care insurance program in the nation," OPM Director Kay Coles James noted on the program Web page at www.opm.gov/insure/ltc.

Long-term care insurance helps people with chronic health conditions to pay for caregivers and services that help them do such things as get out of bed, wash, dress, eat, go to the toilet, and other activities that the ill and frail find difficult, according to OPM.

Long-term care may be provided at home, in a nursing home or in an assisted-living facility. Long-term care is not medical care and usually isn't covered by medical insurance plans. Likewise, the long-term insurance program does not cover medical care expenses or medicines.

During the program's first "open season," from July 1 through Dec. 31, eligible military members, federal civilians, and their spouses need to answer a few health questions as part of the streamlined underwriting process. Underwriting is key: It determines an applicant's level of risk, eligibility to participate, premiums and benefits.

On the other hand, because premiums for long-term care insurance are based upon age and state of health, all federal civilian and military retirees must undergo full underwriting, which involves answering more health-related questions and providing more information.

The Long-Term Care Partners Web site, www.ltcfeds.com, slated to debut July 1, will feature open season information kits and application instructions.

There may be additional FLTCI Open Season enrollment windows, but none are scheduled or promised at this time, program officials said. Procedures and rules may change for future open seasons, they added.

The long-term care insurance program for federal employees "establishes the federal government as a pacesetter in the marketplace," James noted, "and reflects our commitment to and concern for you, the men and women who work for America."

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