The Washington Post

Federal workers swallowed big hike in insurance premiums


Almost half of federal workers enrolled in the long-term care insurance program offered by the government swallowed a 25 percent hike in premiums that blindsided them two years ago, a new audit says.


Of the 146,415 civil servants affected by premium hikes in 2009, 46 percent stayed with the plan, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office. On average, they are now paying close to $30 more for coverage each month, with some paying $40 more for expanded coverage.

The watchdog arm of Congress noted that insurance carriers throughout the country have raised long-term care premiums because of less-than-stellar profits and an aging population. Just a handful of carriers offer policies in a market that is still relatively new.

Participants in the federal program, insured by John Hancock and run by the Office of Personnel Management since it was created in 2002, must pay the full cost of their premiums.

The audit said management and oversight of the program by OPM has improved the agency came under a barrage of criticism that it was not transparent about the rate hikes. The personnel agency had promised that benefits would grow year after year without premium increases.

Many federal workers said they would drop out of the program rather than pay the increase, but the GAO said less than 2 percent of the employees who faced higher premiums let their coverage lapse.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.


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