Long-term insurance premiums for some feds might rise

Tuesday - 5/5/2009, 2:09pm EDT

Mike Causey

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio

The rates for long-term care insurance for some federal employees might be going up.

The Office of Personnel Management recently signed a contract with John Hancock Life and Health Insurance Company.

This company will now provide insurance for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program's second seven-year contract term.

FederalNewsRadio Senior Correspondent Mike Cause says premiums could rise anywhere between five and 25 percent.

According to an OPM press release, John Hancock will allow for a decision period for current enrollees before any premium increases take effect. Federal employees will be able to choose from a variety of options, including making changes to their benefits that could keep their premiums about the same.

OPM says this is the first increase since the program began seven years ago and is consistent with rate hikes seen in the private sector.

"Long term care insurance is money that comes in every month . . . if you are unable to do -- I think they call them the five or seven essentials of living -- but these are things like feeding yourself, dressing yourself . . . you know, just getting around," Causey says.

Younger federal employees, he notes, might not think they need to invest in long-term care at this point, but long-term care isn't just for the elderly.

"You can step in front of a bus tomorrow. . . . Youth is not a guarantee of anything. You need long-term care health insurance. The earlier you buy it -- that is, the younger you are and the healthier you are, the cheaper it is. So, if you bought a policy at, say, age 40, many people say that's too young. Well, you hope it is, but if you buy a policy at age 40, it'll be much easier to get it -- and it'll a much lower premium -- than if you wait until 50 or 60 or 70."

Causey says this is not to say that younger federal employees should necessarily go with what OPM is offering.

"You may be able to get a better deal on the outside. It may be a lower premium because the federal plan is a group plan. [So] you may be able to get a better single plan -- but you may not. It certainly pays to check around and, again, don't let that age thing fool you because an accident, a stroke -- some debilitating thing could happen any time."

The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program covers most federal and USPS employees and retirees, as well as many active and retired members of the uniformed services.

OPM says 224,000 people are currently enrolled in the program.

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On the Web:

OPM - OPM Awards New Long Term Care Insurance Contract

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