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President Clinton Signs Measure Aimed at Helping Federal Employees Obtain Long-Term Care

Aired September 19, 2000 - 1:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In Washington today, President Clinton highlighted one thing Democrats and Republicans have in common. Both, the president said, get old and many need long-term care. Mr. Clinton signed a bipartisan measure aimed at helping federal employees obtain that care.

And CNN's Major Garrett is here to tell us about it -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie.

Well, the most important thing to tell you about this new legislation is that it does not provide any new direct government benefit. What it does is allow 20 million Americans, federal employees, military personnel, their families, dependents and survivors, to purchase long-term care insurance at group rates. Group rates are often 15-20 percent less expensive than those folks would have been able to purchase care individually.

Now what is long-term care insurance? Well, that is insurance that helps families pay for the devastating cost of nursing home care, or care at home, around-the-clock care for someone in their family who can no longer dress themselves, feed themselves, or take care of ordinary daily tasks.

At the signing ceremony, the president said he hoped this legislation would be the first of many steps the administration and Congress would take to address the needs of those seeking long-term care insurance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's signing represents an important steps toward meeting the phenomenal demographic changes that we're facing in a humane and decent and I believe highly intelligent way.

It helps to make sure that the aging of America will be on balance a great blessing and not an overwhelming burden to our children and our grandchildren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Government estimates say that more than five million need some form of long-term care insurance, yet only three million Americans actually have the insurance.

But CNN met someone who not only has this insurance but stands to benefit from this new legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARRETT (voice-over): When it comes to the benefits of long-term care coverage, Roberta Webb is a believer.

Webb is 86. Five years ago, her husband, a career FBI agent, took out a long-term care policy. Such policies covering nursing home around-the-clock homecare, which her husband received after falling gravely ill last year.

ROBERTA WEBB: He was in his own surroundings and with the dogs here to -- and the family and dropping in and the neighbors, and this and that. And I was watching to see that everything was done right, though I couldn't do it.

GARRETT: A widow now, Webb has her own around-the-clock care.

WEBB: I've gotten to where I am sort of shaky about getting in and out of the shower, and I need help with all that now.

GARRETT: But Webb is one of a relatively small number with long- term care coverage, and it is not cheap.

Webb will pay $6,000 a year for hers. The new legislation could save her up to $1200 and make long-term care more affordable to millions more.

CHARLES KHAN, HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: The number of people over 85 will more than triple. And those people really will need, many of them will require nursing home, will require assistance in their homes. And so this need for long-term care insurance will only grow.

GARRETT: The hope is that the private sector...

(INTERRUPTED BY COVERAGE OF BREAKING NEWS)

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