An agency that serves as a human resources office for federal employees says it is doing its best to deal with a looming increase in voluntary long term care insurance plan prices.

John Berry, director of the U.S. of Personnel Management, has sent a “strongly worded letter” about the topic to the lawmakers in charge of overseeing the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, according to OPM officials.

Lawmakers have been asking about reports that Long Term Care Partners L.L.C., Portsmouth, N.H., will be increasing rates in 2010 for Federal LTC Insurance Program participants who have signed up for the automatic compound inflation option.

“We understand and share your concerns and would not have agreed to a premium increase unless we believed it was a necessary step for the stability of the program,” Berry writes in the letter. “That said, we intend to conduct an overall evaluation of this program to determine if there are ways in which it can be more effectively and efficiently administered in the future.”

Federal employees and others who participate in the program, such as the spouses of federal employees, and have the ACIO feature will have until Feb. 15, 2010, to decide whether to pay more for coverage or accept a change in their benefits package, Berry writes.

Originally, the decision deadline was going to be Dec. 14, 2009, Berry writes.

The deadline extension “will ensure that every ACIO enrollee facing an increase will have at least 3 months to make the decision,” and Long Term Care Partners will be working to educate ACIO enrollees about their options, Berry writes.

Long Term Care Partners is a subsidiary of John Hancock Life and Health Insurance Company, Boston, which is, in turn, a unit of Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto (TSX:MFC).

Berry notes that the new LTC program educational and promotional materials clearly emphasize that premiums are not guaranteed.