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Early Enrollment Opens for Long-Term Care Insurance Program

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2002 – A period of early enrollment into the new Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program is now open. Federal personnel managers estimate as many as 20 million people are eligible to use this new benefit.

The federal Office of Personnel Management has contracted with John Hancock and MetLife insurance companies to provide this additional benefit for all federal employees, including military, and retirees.

The insurance program is designed to cover expenses associated with long-term care in a nursing home or in the beneficiary's home. Federal employees will be able to purchase the insurance for themselves, spouses, children and parents. Federal retirees are entitled to enroll only themselves and their spouses, according to information on the program's Internet home page, www.opm.gov/insure/ltc.

"The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program is an option that can protect us emotionally, financially and socially at a time when family members face unimagined challenges," OPM Director Kay Coles James said March 25. "With access to long-term care insurance, we can act responsibly by planning well in advance for future care costs, giving us more time to focus our love and attention on what's really important -- family."

The early enrollment period began March 25 and runs until May 15. An initial six-month-long open enrollment season begins July 1. Officials stressed the early enrollment period is designed to accommodate people who are familiar with long-term care insurance and know what coverage they wish to purchase.

Those who still have questions should wait until the open season. An information campaign under way now will help educate people about the benefit by the open enrollment period, officials said.

Applicants may be required to answer health-related questions, provide medical records or be interviewed personally to be eligible for the insurance.

During early enrollment, pre-packaged policies can be purchased for three- or five-year periods, with daily benefits of $100 or $150. Individuals wishing greater flexibility can buy policies with daily benefits from $50 to $300. Additional plan options, including an unlimited benefit, will be available during the regular open enrollment, according to an OPM news release.

For individuals between ages 18 and 30, premiums are $8.40 per month for a policy that offers daily benefit of $100 over three years and after a 90-day waiting period; the same policy with inflation protection starts at $32 a month. After age 30, premiums will vary based on age, amount and length of coverage, the waiting period before benefits kick in and other factors, the release said.

Long-term care is not medical care but rather is designed to help people with chronic conditions to perform daily life functions, such as getting out of bed, dressing, eating and going to the bathroom. Care can be received in at home, a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, adult day care center or hospice.

Experts caution that since long-term care is not medical care, it isn't covered by many medical insurance plans, including Medicare and TRICARE.

For full details, including premiums, packages, benefits, rules and how to enroll, visit the OPM Long-Term Care Insurance Web site at http://www.opm.gov/insure/ltc/.

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