OPM takes long view

The Office of Personnel Management formally introduced its long-term care insurance program on March 25, and it's good news for feds.

The program will offer comprehensive insurance that will make payments for several types of long-term care including nursing home care, assisted living facility care, formal and informal care in your home, hospice care and respite care.

There will be an early enrollment period that will run until May 15, followed by a traditional open season that begins July 1 and runs through the end of the year. There will be a number of options to choose from.

Daily benefits of $50 to $300 — in $25 increments — are available for individuals.

OPM has provided some examples of what long-term care insurance premiums will look like. For instance, a federal or military member under age 30 could buy a $100 daily benefit for a three-year period for as little as $32 a month, or pay $57.90 per month for a five-year, $150 benefit.

Premiums will vary based on age, amount of coverage, length of coverage and other factors.

Early enrollees will be able to choose a daily benefit amount of $50 to $300 in $25 increments and a benefit period of either three years or five years. Enrollees can also select an inflation protection option that is built into the premium.

The range of coverage options will not be as broad during the early enrollment period, but those who sign up then will be able to upgrade their policies during the open season. Premiums paid for long-term insurance are tax-deductible if your medical and dental expenses for the year, including the premiums, add up to more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Who's eligible for coverage? 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 (federal retirees receiving a deferred annuity are not eligible); adult children and spouses of employees and annuitants; and parents, parents-in-law and stepparents of employees.

A major advantage to enrolling in this program is that there will be limited underwriting for federal employees, military personnel and their spouses. That means you won't be asked many health questions. If you have health problems, you may still be able to obtain coverage, whereas a private insurer would charge you a higher premium or even refuse to insure you.

OPM claims that premiums will be significantly lower than those you would pay if you shopped on your own. If that's true, then you shouldn't hesitate to sign up. If you think you're too young to be thinking about long-term care insurance, consider enrolling your parents. Why not get coverage for them at low rates?

If you feel you are knowledgeable about long-term care insurance, you can enroll now. Otherwise, it's probably best to wait until you have received the educational materials from OPM.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at milt.zall@verizon.net.

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