Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate)

The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (LTCIP) played a direct role in shaping thinking at this week’s Senate hearing on long-term care (LTC) financing.

John O’Brien, the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the manager of the FLTCIP, was one of the witnesses, and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., talked about his own conflicted feelings about the brochure toward the end of the hearing, which was organized by the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Udall, who was born in 1950, asked about concerns about a possible growing lack of competition in the private LTCI market, and strategies that could be used to get baby boomers to think about LTC planning and buying LTCI.

O’Brien acknowledged that OPM has questions about the state of the LTCI market.

The current vendor has done a good job, but “when we reupped our contract, we only had one active bidder,” O’Brien said. “The market has stayed relatively static. It is one of the challenges for us.”

O’Brien said he hadn’t yet responded to the FLTCIP brochure he himself has from OPM.

“I keep on thinking I’ll find a moment when I want to do that,” O’Brien said.

Later, O’Brien said he could help FLTCIP enrollment numbers if he signed up.

“You can sign up any time,” O’Brien said. “You can do it in the hearing.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director, said getting voluntary employer programs like the FLTCIP to get potential participants sign up may be important to making the private LTCI market more sustainable.

Creating the broadest possible risk pool is always an issue in individual insurance markets, and, for private LTCI, “this is a very thin individual market at the moment,” Holtz-Eakin said.