With a blind date, it's hard to anticipate what the evening will bring or cost both emotionally and financially. Being assured that your unknown escort "has an interesting job" or "makes his (or her) own jewelry" doesn't cut it.

The same holds true for government workers and military personnel. They, too, have a blind date--details to come--with long-term care insurance.

The group rate for the long-term care insurance package is still being dolled up. Political matchmakers say federal workers will love what they see!

Politicians must decide who sets premiums and benefits and how many plans will be offered. Coverage will go to retirees, and probably to children and parents-in-law of workers as well. Premiums will be based on age at enrollment, and policyholders will pay the full premium. That's what is known.

Republicans want to give federal workers as many as six-long term care insurance plans or options. Democrats generally favor fewer (perhaps one) options with all the basics. Those are details. Important, but details. Will all eligibles, regardless of age or relationship, be covered regardless of age or health? What will be the level of daily benefits available?

As with most good legislative ideas, the devil is in the details, which are still to be determined. For instance, will all eligibles be immediately covered regardless of age or health? What about daily benefit choices? Will there be a waiting period for benefits?

The "big pool" theory argues that with 20 million eligibles, rates should be low and benefits high. The White House says people can expect to pay 20 percent less for long-term care insurance coverage that they can purchase as individuals. Others argue that only those most likely to anticipate needing long-term care insurance coverage will sign up, and that younger, healthier employees--if they want coverage--will buy individual policies outside the government program.

Typically, long-term care insurance plans provide benefits (say $100 to $150 a day) that can run for a fixed time period or for life and can start immediately or 30 or 90 days after someone is incapacitated. It depends on what you want, and can afford.

An issue for many: Should they sign up now for an individual long-term care insurance policy or wait for the government to offer its group rate plan?

Anybody pondering the buy-now-or-wait issue needs to do some homework.

Folks that sell long-term care insurance would like to sell everybody a policy--now. Naturally.

Some experts think it is a waste of money, especially for people younger than 50.

Who knows?

Bill Smith, of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, said the decision to buy now or wait for group long-term care insurance coverage is an individual one. He favors getting the coverage now to be on the safe side. "If the government plan is better and costs less, which I expect, people can drop their individual LTC policy and take the government plan. If not, they can keep their individual policy" and be covered during the time period before long-term care insurance coverage takes effect--which could be a year or two away. Smith said some older people may want to consider dropping life insurance coverage and using the premium money to pay for long-term care insurance. "In some instances, LTC can be a better way to preserve an estate," he said. So, should federal workers sign up for long-term care insurance coverage now or wait until Congress and the White House approve a program and it goes into effect? It is an individual decision, but there are things people can do, as in comparison shopping. What is the likelihood that you will need coverage? What can you afford, and what do you expect for your money? Do private long-term care insurance plans offer similar coverage, and what, if any, is the range of premiums? You can do most of the legwork.

At 9 a.m. tomorrow on WUST radio (1120 AM), Arthur Stein, an expert in long-term care insurance (who also sells policies), will discuss the 10 things people should do when comparing existing coverage.

EEOC Update

At 10 a.m. tomorrow on WUST, Carlton Hadden, acting director of field operations for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will explain new regulations and new rights available to federal employees.

Meantime, Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) has blasted the EEOC for alleged "foot-dragging" in implementing new regulations covering federal workers. Wynn, who claims there is massive job discrimination in government, says a recent General Accounting Office report backs his assertions that the claims filed with the agency get sidetracked "or are arbitrarily dismissed" by bored, indifferent or overworked staff members.

Mike Causey's e-mail address is causeym@washpost.com