Open Season for Federal Employee Long Term Care Insurance

Open season dates for federal employee long term care insurance have been announced. Also, same sex domestic partners of federal employees will now qualify for coverage and will only be subject to “abbreviated underwriting” for the insurance rather than the more stringent “full underwriting” requirements.

In a Federal Register announcement that has just been published,  Open Season to apply for long term care insurance will run from April 4 through May 27, 2011.

During this open season, eligible individuals who are not currently enrolled in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) may apply for coverage, including current federal employees and retirees.

And, as part of the administration’s drive to provide more benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees, the long term care insurance program now allows same-sex domestic partners of civilian active workforce members to qualify as eligible relatives for using the insurance program.

Abbreviated or Standard Underwriting

One other item of note: Most relatives of federal employees will be subject to the full underwriting standard (i.e. more stringent) underwriting requirements for the program. Those that qualify for abbreviated underwriting are active workforce members, their spouses, and same-sex domestic partners of civilian active workforce members.

Abbreviated underwriting has fewer health-related questions than full underwriting. Employees who are eligible for abbreviated underwriting and apply for the 2, 3, or 5 year benefit period answer 7 questions about their health. Spouses of employees who are eligible for abbreviated underwriting answer 9 questions and need to authorize access to their medical records. They may also have an interview with a nurse.

Standard underwriting means that an applicant must answer more health-related questions. It may also include a review of medical records and possibly an interview with a nurse. This is the same level of underwriting that those who purchase individual policies in the private market typically undergo.

For those who may be wondering whether this less stringent underwriting standard may impact your long term care insurance rates, or wondering about higher rates for long term care insurance in general, you should read John Grobe’s article outlining some of the history of premiums under this insurance program and the potential for significantly higher rates in the future.

One question that often arises from readers on extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees is whether the same benefits extend to opposite-sex partners of federal employees. In general, the answer is “no.” The Federal Register announcement specifically identifies same-sex “partners” but also identifies only “spouses” for other federal employees. Moreover, the information site on long term care insurance specifically identifies spouses of federal employees or same-sex domestic partners of federal employees or annuitants who have filed out the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form.

Basis for Change in Qualifying Same-Sex Domestic Partners for Long Term Care Insurance

OPM’s Federal Register notice cites a memorandum from Barak Obama as the basis for extending this insurance benefit to same-sex partners. No change in law has been cited as a basis for the change. The OPM notice reads: The addition of same-sex domestic partners of civilian active workforce members as a new type of qualified relative eligible to apply for FLTCIP coverage is pursuant to the President’s Memorandum of June 17, 2009 on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination….”

The Presidential memo of June 2010 states, in part: “Although legislative action is necessary to provide full equality to LGBT Federal employees, the agencies have identified a number of benefits that can be extended under existing law. OPM… has provided me with a report recommending that all of the identified benefits be extended.”

A word to the wise: Readers should be sure to read Long Term Care Insurance: Do Your Homework by John Grobe before rushing into a decision on whether to apply for this insurance.

More information on the long term care insurance program is available here and the Office of Personnel Management website.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47