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Enrollment Deadline Nears in Long-Term Care Open Season

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2002 – For military and civilian personnel who don't have an extra $20,000 to spend on long-term health care and who can't count on their families to take care of them, now may be the time to sign up for the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program.

Dec. 31 is the program open-season enrollment deadline. Premiums are determined by coverage options and age, but they remain level after coverage starts. Open season offers the advantages of fewer health- related questions and premiums based on the applicant's coverage and age as of July 1, 2002. After open season, the health questionnaire is longer and premiums are based on applicants' coverage and their ages when they buy it.

The Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program is administered by John Hancock and MetLife, two of the nation's leading insurers. It's the only long-term care insurance program authorized by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

According to an April 2002 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing Home and Home Care Costs, the national average annual cost of home health care is well over $20,000. That cost is expected to climb to $68,000 by 2030. The national average annual nursing home cost is $52,000 for a semi-private room and is expected to climb to $190,600 by 2030.

Studies show that about 60 percent of those who reach age 65 will need long-term care at some time in their lives. However, many people don't realize that the need for long-term care can strike at any time. According to OPM statistics, 40 percent of people receiving long-term care services are working-age adults, between the ages of 18 and 64.

The FTLC insurance program benefits those who can no longer perform daily living activities such as eating, bathing or getting dressed. It also covers persons affected by severe "cognitive impairments," such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, the program provides money to pay for care in various settings, including at home, assisted living facilities, adult day care centers and hospice facilities. More than 80 percent of all people receiving long-term care assistance are not in nursing homes.

OPM Director Kay Coles James, speaking on behalf of the FLTC program on the OPM Web site, calls the insurance a gift to her family.

"I told my children that when I signed up for the OPM-sponsored Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, I was going to make the insurance certificate one of their presents because it benefits them as much as it benefits my husband and me," she stated. "Through this one act of personal responsibility, I am reducing a potential future burden on them and their families."

Applications can be done online at www.ltcfeds.com or downloaded for mailing. The Web site also allows federal employees to calculate insurance premiums and to find answers to frequently asked questions.

To talk with a long-term care adviser, call 1-800-582-3337, (TTY: 1-800-843-3557), 8 a.m. to midnight, Eastern time, seven days a week.

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