WASHINGTON BUREAU — Sen. Herbert Kohl has introduced a bill, S. 1177, that would press state regulators to create uniform long term care insurance solvency and consumer protection rules.

Kohl, D-Wis., announced the introduction of the bill Wednesday at a hearing convened by the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Kohl heads the committee.

Kohl implied that he and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pension committee, would work to include bill provisions in the health reform legislation now being drafted in the Senate.

Kennedy and HELP Committee staffers said earlier this week that a draft bill might be unveiled as early as Friday.

“Until we can guarantee that consumers have adequate information and protections, and that premiums won’t skyrocket down the road, LTC insurance is not ready to be a major part of the health care reform solution,” Kohl said.

The Kohl bill, “The Confidence in Long-Term Care Insurance Act of 2009,” would:

- Direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, working in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, to ask the NAIC to conduct a biennial survey of national and state LTC insurance markets.

- Require delivery of a number of reports to Congress, including ?a report on the results of the biennial market review; ?biennial reports on the impact of Medicaid LTC insurance partnership programs; and a report on the need for minimum annual inflation-protection.

- Expand the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information to include Web-based LTC insurance policy comparison tools.

- Change the rules governing matters such as premium rate stability, market disclosures, and agent training, by extending the scope of rules that already apply to LTC Partnership program policies.

- Provide for updating consumer protection provisions as soon as new NAIC model language is released or new information is disclosed during the biennial survey process.

- Allow reciprocity across state partnership plans.

- Stop officials from counting LTC benefits, including cash benefits, when determining patients’ eligibility for Medicaid.

Reactions

The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, has welcomed introduction of the Kohl bill.

“ACLI is closely reviewing the legislation, but we are encouraged by the bill’s intent to address inconsistencies in the current state regulatory system that have resulted in disparate consumer protections nationwide,” ACLI President Frank Keating says in a statement.

“The industry, which paid $7.2 billion to policyholders in 2007 alone, strongly supports uniform enactment and enforcement of National Association of Insurance Commissioners models that provide guidelines for the payment of claims and include strong consumer protections,” Keating says.

Eileen Tell, senior vice president of the Long Term Care Group Inc., Natick, Mass., says the Kohl bill may codify LTC consumer protections that are already in place.

“Most insurers offer products with uniformity across states, even though state regulations and state adoption of the NAIC model varies,” Tell says.

In addition, “there is already an approach for consumers to compare policies on an apples-to-apples basis and to know exactly what they are purchasing, because every state requires insurers to deliver a standardized ‘outline of coverage’ in a format specified by law,” Tell says.