The agency running the long term care insurance program for federal employees has extended a deadline for enrollees to decide whether to keep their coverage.

Due to an error in a recent letter to enrollees, Long Term Care Partners Inc., Portsmouth, N.H., the company administering the program for OPM, extended the deadline for making a decision on policy renewals to March 15, 2010.

LTC Partners is a unit of John Hancock, Boston, which, in turn, is a subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto (NYSE:MFC).

The OPM deadline extension gives enrollees more time to consider whether they want to keep their policies and pay premium hikes as high as 25%. OPM announced the premium hikes in May.

This is the second time OPM has extended the decision deadline, which was originally set for Dec. 14. After policyholders complained about the premium hike at a Senate hearing in October, OPM extended the deadline to Feb. 15, 2010.

In May, OPM notified most enrollees in the plan that they were going to be hit with premium increases on the anniversary dates of their policies, from November 2009 through January 2010. Policyholders who did not want to pay more were told that they could opt for a lower-cost policy or cancel their policy altogether.

A recent letter to 71,600 enrollees contained an error that affected some policies with an automatic compound inflation option, OPM says.

The options form included with the letter, sent in late October and early November, did not include a 5% compounded increase that was to be effective on the anniversary date for benefit increases, according to OPM.

OPM notified the enrollees of the mistake in a letter sent Monday.