Sen. Barack Obama, a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, is calling for a wide-ranging investigation of the long term care insurance industry.

Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has written to the U.S. Government Accountability Office to ask it to look into a New York Times reporter’s allegations of widespread LTC insurance claims problems.

Obama also has asked the GAO to look into other concerns about the private LTC insurance market.

Although carriers may be mishandling claims, other concerns could include efforts to lure consumers with unrealistically low, lapse-supported premiums and policies that do not include effective inflation adjustment mechanisms, Barack writes in the letter to the GAO, which he released to the public through the Business Wire news release distribution service.

Obama has asked the GAO to report on claims denial rates, the extent to which denials were justifiable, and the percentage of policies sold that do adjust and do not adjust for inflation.

Obama also has asked the GAO to review the frequency and amount of premium increases in already-purchased policies, average lapse rates of policyholders, and the correlation between premium increases and lapse rates.

The GAO should discuss “what, if any, additional federal regulation is needed,” Obama writes.