Clinton signs bill on long-term care, retirement errors

President Clinton Tuesday signed into law a bill allowing federal employees to purchase long-term care insurance at discounted rates.

The bill, H.R. 4040, also includes a provision that would provide relief to federal employees and their families who, through no fault of their own, became victims of retirement coverage mistakes.

The bill directs the Office of Personnel Management to invite bids from private insurers to offer coverage for employees and their spouses, children and other close relatives at discounted group rates. Federal workers, active-duty military personnel and civilian and military retirees are all covered. Employees and their eligible family members would pay the insurance premiums, but rates are expected to be discounted.

The House and Senate gave final approval to the measure in late July.

"Our hope is that by making high-quality private long-term care coverage available to the federal family at negotiated group rates, we will continue to serve as a model to other employers across the nation," Clinton said in signing the legislation.

OPM will screen insurance providers and make sure employees receive all the necessary information on insurance options and benefits.

"This is an important down payment toward finding solutions to the exploding problem of long term care in this country," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. "As the nation's largest employer, first-the federal government can be a model and example for employers around the country and second-it can raise awareness and education about long-term care options," she said. Mikulski was the lead Democratic sponsor of S. 2420, the Senate companion bill to H.R. 4040.

The retirement foul-up that the bill aims to correct arose in the mid-1980s, during the transition from the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Confused agencies placed some employees in CSRS when they should have been in FERS and some in FERS when they should have been in CSRS. Up to 18,000 federal workers may have been affected.

"Unlike current law, which directs how coverage errors will be corrected, it permits those placed in the wrong retirement coverage to choose the coverage that best serves their needs and preferences," Clinton said.

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