Long-term care insurance option

Anoka County regular employees will have access to long-term care insurance through a voluntary program.

The Anoka County Board Nov. 13 voted unanimously to join the municipal pool program through the Ochs Agency.

By doing so, there is no cost to the county and employees are given the opportunity to purchase long-term care insurance, according to Melanie Ault, director of human resources.

“Anoka County has been very supportive of the value of long-term care insurance and has desired to offer a voluntary product for regular employees to purchase,” Ault wrote in a memo to the county board.

For several years, as part of its legislative platform, the county has urged the Minnesota Legislature to give county employees the opportunity to purchase long-term care insurance from the state’s contract with its insurer, CNA, she wrote.

But no legislation allowing that has passed.

According to Ault, the county will continue to pursue the state contract as part of its 2013 legislative platform, but the Ochs Agency won’t be accepting new subscribing organizations after Jan. 1, 2013.

And to become part of the municipal pool program, all employee enrollment forms have to be at the Ochs Agency office by Nov. 28, Ault told the county board.

“Our window of opportunity may be closing,” she wrote.

Employees who don’t enroll right away, but choose to do so later would be required to fill out an application and go through an underwriting process that does not guarantee acceptance, Ault said.

Another option would be for the county to obtain its own long-term insurance policy to offer employees, according to Ault.

“It has become apparent that Anoka County won’t be able to obtain our own group policy to offer to employees,” Ault wrote.

“The two other primary insurers, Prudential and UNUM, have decided to exit the long-term care insurance market.”

Joining the municipal pool may be the only opportunity for regular employees to voluntarily purchase long-term care insurance, Ault wrote.

The county will provide education sessions on the long-term care insurance program to help them decide whether and how much to purchase, she wrote.

According to Anoka County Commissioner Andy Westerberg, who owns and operates an insurance agency, the long-term care insurance options are “drying up” in the metro area.

“This is an incredible opportunity to offer employees,” Westerberg said.

Anoka County needs to offer this program because the Legislature has failed to act on the county’s requests over the years to be included in the state program, said County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.

But those efforts will continue at the state level, she said.

According to the Ochs Agency website, the municipal pool program provides a variety of long-term care insurance options at affordable premiums (because it is a group plan), as little as $16.54 a month for a 45-year-old.

Long-term care is expensive with the average annual cost of a nursing home stay in Minnesota nearly $41,000, while care at home can easily exceed $20,000 annually, the website states.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com