Anti-poverty insurance for feds?

Wednesday - 6/15/2011, 2:01am EDT

The leading cause of bankruptcy in America is said to be staggering medical bills or costs associated with long-term assisted living. Not a fun stat! But food for thought - especially this week - because the easy-signup open season for the federal long term care (LTC) insurance group rate program ends June 24. That's a week from tomorrow. So who really needs LTC now? Is it:

  1. My oldest granddaughter? On Memorial Day this college-bound person (yes, I was a child groom) fell, one step, onto a concrete sidewalk. Her father, uncle and I were standing two feet away. Tough kid. She didn't cry, ever. But she got sick and appeared to go into shock. Off to the hospital. Bottom line: a shattered right elbow, major surgery and maybe more to come - maybe lots more. But she is young and strong. Docs say she should make a full recovery (some possible mobility issues). Thank heaven for good doctors, a nearby hospital and employer-provided health insurance.

  2. My former colleague? Also on Memorial Day, a former newspaper colleague fell. He didn't trip. He just dropped. He's a World War II vet in his 80s. Tough man. One leg is slightly shorter than the other, the result of a suicide airplane attack on his ship off Okinawa. But he had a full, very successful career with a major newspaper. His pension (after 38 plus years of service) is $324 per MONTH. But he married well and invested well. So with his long term care insurance policy, his son says he will be okay. A good thing because they say he will never leave the nursing home unassisted and needs 24/7 care since the fall.

  3. My mother? A retired fed, who was healthy before it became fashionable to take care of yourself. As city folks she/we walked a lot. She didn't learn to drive until her mid-30s. She was healthy but didn't like to think about dark things, like accidents or illness. Even so, I convinced her to get LTC through the government program. She, instead, went outside and got an individual policy. But at least she had it. After a simple car crash, dementia set in quickly. She died in a full-care nursing home after several years. Because of her small Social Security benefit, her indexed-to-inflation CSRS annuity and the LTC policy, she got the best care money could provide with minimal out-of-pocket expenses for her or her family. Today, by the way, would have been her 91st birthday.

If you picked number two, three or both, you are correct. My granddaughter, maybe, needs to check out long term disability insurance when she starts working. And then, as she ages, she can move into LTC.

So who needs it? Why? At what age? And why sign up now?

Today at 10 a.m. on Your Turn with Mike Causey, Paul Forte and Beth O'Brien from Federal Long Term Care Partners will talk about the different kinds of LTC insurance, what they cost and cover, and who needs them.

Social Security and your FEHBP insurance plans don't take care of most nursing home or assisted living costs. That is up to you - or your family. You may find that the federal program is best for you. But if you are younger and healthy, you may be able to get similar coverage for a lot less.

Also on Your Turn with Mike Causey we will talk with Federal Times Editor Steve Watkins to find out the status of plans to cut take-home pay, raise health premiums and trim one in every 10 federal jobs. Many of these plans in Congress are under the radar, but Steve has been tracking them and will give us a status report.

If you have questions for any of my guests, e-mail me at or call during show time (10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Eastern time): 202-465-3081.

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