NU Online News Service, May 14, 2:25 p.m. ? Washington

A new coalition of insurance companies, agents and seniors groups has launched a campaign urging Congress to provide an above-the-line deduction for long-term care insurance this year.

“The purpose of our campaign is simple,” says Donald Young, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington. “We are urging Congress to pass tax relief for long-term care. Not after the next election. Not in the next session of Congress. But now. This year.

“Given the threat that long-term care costs pose to state and federal budget, the country cannot afford to wait.”

HIAA was among more than 40 organizations signing a letter to congressional leaders asking for enactment of legislation to provide an above-the-line deduction for the purchase of long-term care insurance.

An above-the-line deduction is one that is available to all taxpayers, whether or not they itemize.

The legislation has been introduced as H.R. 831 in the House and S. 627 in the Senate.

In addition to HIAA, insurance groups joining the coalition include the American Council of Life Insurers, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, the National Association of Health Underwriters, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

Other members of the coalition include the American Association of Retired Persons, the United Seniors Association, the National Council on the Aging and the 60 Plus Association.

The letter, which was sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., says that passage of the legislation is necessary to respond to the growing future need for long-term care.

“Eleven million Americans face the challenges of long-term care,” the letter says. “The financing of this care will become increasingly difficult as our nation’s elderly population swells.

“Medicaid costs already comprise a major share of state budgets and most states are currently facing significant budget constraints.”

According to HIAA, the coalition conducted dozens of visits to key members of Congress last week to boost support for the legislation.

HIAA and ACLI also ran ads supporting the legislation in Capitol Hill newspapers.

Young noted that President Bush has already set aside $24 billion in his fiscal year 2003 budget for long-term care tax relief.

The tax relief, he said, is backed by Democrats and Republicans, as well as consumer advocates and business groups.

“We know there is a will,” Young said. “Now it is up to Congress to find a way.”