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Many unknowns for employers in LTC rule


PROVISIONS IN THE NEW health care reform law that would establish a federal long-term care insurance program shine a much-needed light on the issue of financing elder care. But what's not clear, and likely won't be clear until regulations on implementing the program are formulated, is what effects the program will have on employers.

As we report on page 1, the health care reform measure signed into law by President Barack Obama last month will establish a voluntary long-term care program for workers.

Financing elder care is a huge issue for the country as a whole and one that often is ignored. As life expectancy increases, more and more people will need various forms of care as age-related illnesses grow more common. The cost of that care can be substantial and can eradicate retirement savings quickly.

A program that would allow workers essentially to prefund that care throughout much of their working lives sounds like a good idea. Such programs already exist, however, in the form of private long-term care insurance. In addition, the coverage that now is available often is cheaper and provides better benefits than the recently approved government program.

While employers seldom finance long-term care insurance programs, many do offer coverage as a voluntary benefit to workers. The trick is to communicate to employees the importance of the coverage and facilitate their enrollment in the programs.