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  November 13, 2000

Long-Term Care Insurance
Available to State Employees

A State of Connecticut long-term care insurance program is available to state employees, retirees and their families, with open enrollment through Feb. l.

The guaranteed issue offer is for full-time employees who work 20 hours or more per week, have worked for the state for six months, and who sign up during the enrollment period. The enrollment period began in October and workshops were held for state employees.

The insurance is offered through the Connecticut Partnership for Long-Term Care, an alliance between the state and the private insurance industry by UNIM Insurance Co.

"We encourage people to take a look at the program as part of their financial planning for retirement," says Dennis Dion, manager of retirement and special benefits, because "medical insurance doesn't cover long-term care at home or in nursing homes." He says the Medicaid Asset Protection feature is a "big benefit," because it helps people plan for their future long-term care needs without depleting all their assets to pay for care.

Long-term care is needed when someone has a debilitating illness or accident that renders him or her unable to perform activities of daily living, or when a person has a cognitive impairment that affects the ability to think, reason or remember. These people may need extended help or around-the-clock care. The insurance program covers the expenses of home health care workers, visiting nurses, therapists, adult day care and many other home-based services, as well as nursing home and assisted living facility care.

Everyone is at potential risk for needing long-term help. Medical and disability insurance do not cover long-term care, and health care costs are skyrocketing. The average annual cost of a nursing facility in Connecticut is more than $78,000, and home care can cost just as much. Medicare will only pay benefits toward long-term care in the most limited cases and for a very short time. Medicaid is reserved for the impoverished: an individual must use up most of his or her assets to be eligible. In Connecticut, that means spending down assets to $1,600 for a single person.

One of the benefits of the Connecticut Long Term-Care Insurance Certificate is the Medicaid Asset Protection feature, says Patrice Couture, marketing director for Connecticut Partnership for Long-Term Care. A person can apply for Connecticut's Medicaid Program to cover costs that arise after the insurance ends, without having to use up all assets first. If an individual buys $100,000 in coverage, he or she may earn $100,000 in protection. If care costs exceed $100,000, the person may apply for Medicaid assistance and keep $100,000 of assets intact.

"While we're all putting away money and planning for the future, a debilitating illness or accident can wipe out savings in less than a year," Couture says.

"One of the myths about long-term care is that it is something only the elderly need," she says. "We're in a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that we've made so many advances in medicine that we are surviving longer. The bad news is that we will survive, but most likely be living with impairment. Forty per cent of all physically disabled people are under the age of 65 and about 24 million Americans under the age of 65 need assistance with those activities of daily living. We have a tendency to think, 'It's not going to happen to me; I'll worry about that when I'm in my 50s.'"

Additional sessions on the insurance program will be held in January. For more information, call Patrice Couture at (800) 324-9503, ext. 3326.

Sherry Fisher