Hawaiian panel OKs public LTC plan bill

By National Underwriter

National Underwriter


By Allison Bell

Lawmakers in Hawaii are moving ahead with a public long-term care insurance (LTCI) program study measure.

Members of the Hawaii House Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee voted 10-0 Wednesday to approve an amended version of House Bill 1.

If passed as written, H.B. 1 would require the director of the state's executive officer of aging to hire actuaries to analyze the idea of setting up a "limited, mandatory, public" LTCI program for Hawaii's workers, according to the state legislative tracking system.

The bill would provide $380,000 in funding for the actuarial analysis.

State Rep. Gregg Takayama, D-Pearl City, introduced the bill.

Members of the state Senate voted Jan. 31 to approve an amended version of a companion bill, Senate Bill 104, by a 3-0 vote.

State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-Sand Island, the chairman of the Human Services Committee, introduced S.B. 104.

Chun Oakland also introduced a public LTCI program bill during the previous legislative session.

Why?

The authors of H.B. 1 state in the first section of the bill that relying on private insurers to meet long-term care insurance needs has not worked.

A Hawaii long term care commission has found that "only a minority of Americans will ever have private long term care insurance, even in an optimistic economic environment," according to the bill text. "Therefore, an alternative that matches the mandatory, universal long-term care insurance programs found in countries such as Japan and South Korea is to create a more balanced delivery system for long term care to all persons who require it, regardless of their financial need."

Reactions

The ILWU Local 142 and Wes Lum, director of the state Executive Office on Aging, have submitted written testimony supporting the bill.

The ILWU local, a labor group, noted that Hawaii has considered other long-term care (LTC) financing vehicle proposals in the past.

A proposed Family Hope program would have created an LTC fund by taxing wage earners, the ILWU said.

Lawmakers also have considered creating an LTC tax credit, and also creating a Care Plus LTC program that would have provided up to $70 in benefits per month after taxing each wage earner $10 per month, the ILWU said.

Any successful program "must be mandatory (no one can opt out), public (government-supported and managed) and limited (will not provide full coverage)," the ILWU said.

The AARP Hawaii office has estimated that about 12 percent of adult Hawaii residents now have private LTCI coverage. When the office commissioned a survey, it found that 16 percent of state residents ages 50 and older expect to be able to use LTCI coverage to pay for LTC services.

About 21 percent are expecting to have to rely on Medicaid, AARP said.

"Among residents who said they do not have a private long-term care insurance policy, the most frequently cited reason (38 percent) was that coverage is too expensive," AARP said.

About 59 percent of the participants said they would support a mandatory, public LTC program, and only 27 percent said they were opposed to the concept, AARP said.

Originally published on LifeHealthPro.com