Lawmakers want answers to long-term care premium hikes

Two Virginia congressmen are demanding answers from the Office of Personnel Management on why the premiums for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program are rising by as much as 126 percent.

Earlier this month OPM announced that premiums would rise anywhere from 0-126 percent for long-term care insurance.

Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a July 22 letter to acting OPM Director Beth Cobert that the increase “merits a reconsideration of how we structure FLTCIP so that price spikes at this extreme can be avoided.”

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“The cost of the insurance is expected to increase by an average of 83 percent, or $111 a month with some enrollees experiencing increases of up to 126 percent starting Nov.1,” the letter states. “For those on a fixed or limited income, such an increase is simply unaffordable.”

In the letter they ask for answers to the following questions:

  • What accounts for the significant increase in premiums and how is that being calculated?
  • What outreach or support is being offered to enrollees beyond mailing letters?
  • In what ways are you working with enrollees to make these price spikes more affordable?
  • Are annual benchmarks incorporated to ensure that the actuarial projected value matches the actual value? If not, why?

The Enrollee Decision Period runs July 18 through Sept. 30, which the lawmakers said was short given the fact the average age of the purchasing population is 60.

OPM Spokesman Sam Schumach said just how much the premium will increase is based in part on an enrollee’s age, the plan originally purchased (FLTCIP 1.0 or 2.0), the plan design and whether an enrollee makes changes to their current policy.

“We understand that a premium increase may not be affordable for some. This is why we are offering enrollees personalized options to help reduce the impact of the premium increase,” said Joan Melanson, director of promotion for FLTCIP.

Federal employee advocacy groups and unions are criticizing the premium hikes, and program enrollees have also expressed their frustration.

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A 68-year-old former federal employee said in an email to Federal News Radio that her premium went from $139 per month to $315, while her husband, who is also a former fed, saw his $248 premium more than double to $550.

“There is no gradual or phased in increase,  just BOOM!!!,” the woman said. “However, my husband’s retirement will never increase and increases to my Social Security are meager or non-existent and do not keep up with the increases on our health care insurance costs! One thing that we could not bear is to be a financial burden to our children. This is the whole idea for this type of insurance and now that reassurance will be severely impacted, and for many taken away completely!”