- By Milt x_Zall
- May 14, 2001
The Office of Personnel Management is working to make a long-term care insurance
program available to government employees and their family members by October
2002. In the meantime, OPM has provided some preliminary information on
what the program will look like and it's mostly good news.
OPM says the program will offer comprehensive insurance that will cover
several types of long-term care that people may need because they are unable
to care for themselves. This will include nursing home care, assisted living
facility care, formal and informal care in your home, hospice care and respite
Eligible participants under the law include federal employees and members
of the uniformed services, federal retirees (who retire on an immediate
annuity), retirees of the uniformed services and military reservists at
the time they qualify for an annuity. However, feds who leave government
employment before qualifying for an immediate annuity but who are eligible
to receive one later (typically at age 62) are excluded.
But why are they excluded? The compensation trend within the federal
government has actually been to encourage mobility between the public and
private sectors. Employees covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System
can take their Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan accounts if they
take a job in the private sector. The idea is to make employees feel that
they can leave government whenever they want to and take most of their benefits
Well, apparently provisions of the Long Term Care Security Act ignore
this trend. So if a fed, say someone who is 35 and whose parents are 60,
leaves government for a private-sector job and has not enrolled in the long-term
care program, he's out of luck. That fed keeps his TSP money and Social
Security coverage and is entitled to a deferred annuity but can't ever qualify
for long-term care insurance unless he comes back to work for Uncle Sam.
That's a disincentive to leave government, which is contrary to the current
policy. Somebody really goofed! Who's eligible for coverage? Adult children
and spouses of employees and annuitants, parents, parents-in-law and step-parents
of employees are covered and OPM said more relatives might be covered
in the future. The irony is that although OPM is thinking of extending
coverage to individuals who never were feds or members of the armed forces,
federal employees who retired on a deferred annuity won't be eligible.
This coverage isn't being provided as a fringe benefit. You'll have
to pay for it all of it. OPM hopes to negotiate a premium structure with
insurance companies that is 20 percent cheaper than what you'd pay if you
purchased a policy by yourself. Let's hope OPM succeeds.
Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus
column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.