Clinton proposes long-term care insurance for feds

President Clinton Monday urged Congress to offer federal employees long-term care insurance, as part of a larger effort to improve long-term care coverage for all Americans.

Under the President's proposal, the Office of Personnel Management would administer the long-term care insurance program. Much like the regular Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), through which the federal government contracts with private insurers for discounted health insurance rates, the long-term care program would offer coverage at lower rates than would be available to individuals. But unlike FEHBP, the government would not pay a portion of the long-term care premium.

"I am proposing that the federal government, as the nation's largest employer, use its market leverage to set an example, offering private long-term care insurance to federal employees," Clinton said. "By promoting high-quality, affordable care, we can encourage more people and more companies to invest in long-term care coverage."

Long-term care insurance covers chronic or debilitating conditions, and often includes assistance with daily living, such as bathing, dressing and providing meals.

Nine companies offer group long-term care insurance, OPM Director Janice Lachance told Monday. Lachance said the government will be able to negotiate discounted rates for federal employees, their families and retirees because the pool of nine million potential customers will be attractive to companies. OPM expects that 300,000 people would sign up for the insurance.

"This is going to be a pool of people that's larger than anyone else has contemplated," Lachance said. "This is going to be unprecedented."

The proposal requires Congress' approval. OPM says it would cost about $15 million to administer the program over five years.

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