The Office of Personnel Man-agement (OPM) has announced that, as of July 1, long-term care (LTC) insurance coverage will be available for the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal employees. Access to such benefits was actually extended in a memo issued by President Obama in June 2009; the announcement by OPM spells out just who’s eligible. The full list, available at ltcfeds.com/eligibility, and the section of the regulations that expands the definition of “qualified relative” was published in the Federal Register on June 1.
“Private insurers have been offering [same-sex partner coverage] for years,” says Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), although primarily in individual rather than group plans.
Some companies do offer the option in group plans, however; one of the largest group LTC carriers says that coverage is offered to domestic partners of the same and/or opposite gender. The client company specifies at the time of sale, says the insurer, whether or not it wants to offer its plan to employees’ domestic partners. Also, in certain states, coverage must be offered to civil union partners.
While Slome says that “the gay/lesbian marketplace offers significant sales opportunities, as there are approximately eight million gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults in the U.S.,” that’s about the same number as current long-term care insurance policy owners. More important, he says, there are about 800,000 same-sex couples–a group he describes as “an overlooked market . . . because many seek employment with government entities in order to obtain access to more liberal benefit programs.” The estimate of eight million is based on the 2005/2006 American Community Survey, an extension of the U.S. Census.
Regarding the sale of individual policies, Slome says, “Discounts already available for committed partners living together may be the best-kept secret in long-term care insurance, and the awareness created by the federal LTC plan will definitely heighten awareness.”