One of the more ambitious proposals for encouraging growth in the private insurance market was the passage of the Long Term Care Security Act (Public Law 106-265). This act was passed in the summer of 2000 and was signed into law on September 19th of that year. It authorized the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to contract for a long-term care (LTC) insurance program for federal employees. Medically underwritten coverage was made available to active federal employees and annuitants (civilian retirees), as well as active and retired members of the uniformed services. It was also made available to 'other qualified relatives,' who would include current spouses of employees and annuitants, including surviving spouses of members and retired members of the uniformed services who are receiving a survivor annuity, adult children of living employees and annuitants, and parents, parents-in-law, and stepparents of living active employees. Because this coverage is medically underwritten, certain medical conditions prevented some people from being approved for coverage. OPM expected that, like the health and life insurance programs it administers, the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) would become the largest employer-sponsored LTC insurance program in the nation.
Naturally it was expected that implementation of the program would spur additional interest and growth in the market. The program began in earnest in July of 2002, which constituted the beginning of the open enrollment period. The carriers underwriting the program -- John Hancock and MetLife -- formed a joint venture called Long Term Care Partners, LLC, which is devoted exclusively to administering the program.
Long Term Care Partners conducted one of the largest LTC educational campaigns ever. More than one million people requested enrollment kits. As of August 2003, 273,000 applications had been received. About 64% of enrollees were active employees and spouses, 31% annuitants and their spouses, and another 5% surviving spouses, parents/in-laws and adult children. Thus, in relatively short order, the FLTCIP became the largest group programs in the United States. In part this was due to the significant marketing and enrollment activities including more than 2,100 educational meetings, briefings to human resources staff and outreach programs to affinity groups.
The large number of enrollments affords a unique opportunity to better understand the attitudes and perspectives of both working and retired individuals regarding LTC concerns, the importance of planning, and the role that insurance may (or may not) play in meeting the needs of disabled individuals. An examination of such attitudes can assist policymakers as well as insurers to better understand marketplace opportunities and barriers, and devise strategies to encourage growth in the market.