GOP offers long-term care insurance proposal

GOP offers long-term care insurance proposal

Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil Service, Thursday introduced legislation that would offer federal employees and annuitants the option to purchase long-term care insurance, at group rates, for themselves and their families.

The Civil Service Long Term Care Benefit Act, H.R. 602, would make long-term care insurance available to federal employees, annuitants and eligible relatives through multiple carriers competing for the federal market. Beneficiaries would be provided a variety of plans from which to choose. Group discounts would keep premiums affordable, according to Scarborough. The program would be administered by the Office of Personnel Management, but would be completely funded by the employees.

"Over the next 20 to 30 years, long-term care costs will continue to spiral. The federal government, the nation's largest employer, as a matter of sound public policy has responsibility to encourage all its employees to self insure for long-term care," Scarborough said. "Our bill is a free-market approach to providing coverage to employees and their families with very little cost to the federal government."

Similar legislation, S. 36, has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

In early January, President Clinton 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. Clinton's proposal has been introduced in the House (H.R. 110) by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and in the Senate (S. 57) by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

Scarborough's legislation differs from the administration's in that OPM has a lesser role.

Subcommittee staff director George Nesterczuk said Scarborough's legislation allows OPM to screen insurance carriers and to provide federal employees with eight to 14 "financially sound and reputable" insurance options. From that point, the carriers are responsible for achieving sales.

The administration's bill, by contrast, proposes a "much more directive role for OPM," Nesterczuk said. OPM would put out bids for access to the federal long-term care insurance market and only allow between one and three carriers to join. Then OPM would negotiate the premiums and stipulate what kinds of coverage the carriers can offer

. Both proposals are currently under review by the House Committee on Government Reform.