Kohl introduces bill to increase long-term care insurance use but cautions about over-reliance

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Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) has introduced legislation that would encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance. But he also emphasized during a Wednesday hearing of the Special Committee on Aging, which he chairs, that long-term care insurance still may not be for everyone and "should not be considered as a cure-all."

Although the new bill would boost consumer protections by standardizing long-term care insurance claims handling and across-state transfer policies, Kohl steered away from giving it an unconditional endorsement. He said consumers rightly have a reason to be concerned about the long-term solvency of some policies. One key provision of his bill would encourage seniors to take advantage of "partnership programs" between states and private insurers. Under such programs, seniors would cover the cost of insurance premiums and receive benefits through a private insurance company for a specified period of time, after which the government would take over providing care.

In 2006, long-term care insurance paid for just 9% of long-term care services, while state and federal Medicaid money paid for 40%, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.