Report: Insurers Holding Out On Seniors

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You pay your insurance company each month with the expectation – the assurance – that when you're sick they'll help pay the bills for your care. That's especially true for older Americans shelling out big bucks for long-term care policies, intended to cover their often staggeringly high medical and assisted living expenses. But a New York Times investigation shows some insurers aren't keeping their end of the bargain.

The Times study, based on reviews of hundreds of grievances and lawsuits filed against insurers, finds many elderly Americans face "unnecessary delays and overwhelming bureaucracies," and that some companies have "developed procedures that make it difficult — if not impossible — for policyholders to get paid."

An 85-year-old woman suffering from dementia, for example, was sent the wrong form by her insurance company, according to a lawsuit, and was then denied payment because of improper paperwork. Another insurer allegedly said a 92-year-old man should leave his nursing home because his condition had improved, despite his forgetfulness, anxiety and doctor's orders that he should seek continued care.

The insurance companies insist most elderly policyholders receive prompt payment and that some denials are necessary to root out fraud. But the denials are widespread. In California, nearly one in four long-term care claims was denied in 2005.

"They'll do anything to avoid paying," Mary Beth Senkewicz, a former senior executive at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, told the Times, "because if they wait long enough, they know the policyholders will die."

Is Another New Yorker Eying The White House?

Is there room for yet another New Yorker in the 2008 presidential field? Maybe not, but New York City's billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg can probably make some space for himself if he chooses to.

While he's publicly denied he's interested in running, the Washington Post reports Monday that observers of New York politics say Bloomberg is at least thinking about using some of his $5.5 billion fortune to mount a long-shot independent campaign for the White House.

"He would be a very compelling candidate," civil rights activist and former presidential hopeful Al Sharpton said. Sharpton called Bloomberg "Ross Perot with a resume."

Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican with decidedly liberal positions on same-sex marriage, gun control and taxes, has told confidants he'll wait until early next year to make a decision, once it becomes clear who the two parties will nominate.

If Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg's predecessor as New York mayor, emerge as their party's standard bearers, that could create the unlikely scenario of three New Yorkers seeking the presidency.

"It's the water," joked another former New York mayor Edward I. Koch. "There's no lead in it, which can cloud your thinking."

So what are the odds of Bloomberg joining his fellow New Yorkers in the race? "It's a long shot," said a friend of the mayor's, "but not 100 to 1."

Calling All Space Travelers

Meanwhile, voters in New Mexico have more ethereal concerns on their minds, as they consider a proposal to attract space travelers to the state.

More precisely, they'll be voting next week on a measure to raise taxes to help finance the world's first all-commercial spaceport in a southern part of the state now known for its chile and cotton farms.

Some New Mexico skeptics roll their eyes at the idea; the state is, after all, home to Roswell, that haven for UFO buffs.

But if the proposal is endorsed, the Washington Postsays, "a desert valley used by a handful of ranchers could become Spaceport America -- a 21st-century portal for thousands of people hoping to blast into space as tourists, explorers, researchers and, maybe someday, as commuters to destinations halfway around the world."

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