SC cuts long-term nursing-home coverage

11/21/2012 10:00 PM

11/22/2012 12:07 AM

The state health plan will stop providing coverage for long-term nursing home care after June 2013.

The change does not affect the 11,000 people who currently have the insurance. And anyone who signs up for the insurance before June would keep it. But after June 2013, the state health plan will stop providing long-term care insurance.

Prudential, the state’s provider for long-term care insurance, is not offering the coverage anymore. State officials said they could not find another insurance company that would provide the coverage.

The Public Employee Benefit Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to discontinue the coverage.

“I’m not happy about it,” said Art Bjontegard, chairman of the Public Employee Benefit Authority. “I think to the degree we take away benefits from employees – even though it was not a particularly popular program – it creates a human resource problem and we don’t need human resource problems.”

The state’s long-term care insurance is a voluntary program, meaning employees paid 100 percent of the premiums and taxpayers paid zero. But the insurance is expensive, and state workers got a group discount. That discount will stop after June.

About 11,000 individuals had signed up for the coverage out of about 450,000 people under the state health plan. South Carolina has offered the insurance since 1988 – but they are not required to offer it.

Consultants for the Public Employee Benefit Authority said the struggling economy has made it difficult for insurance companies to offer long-term care insurance at group discounts. But Bjontegard said he hopes when the economy improves the state can begin offering the insurance again.

“I don’t believe this will be an unmet need for long,” he said.

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