LTC Bullet--Book Report: "J.K. Lasser's Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Insurance"

Tuesday, December 17, 2002


LTC Comment: Bad advice on long-term care planning is dangerous to aging Americans, their heirs, and to America's social insurance and welfare programs. After the ***news*** you'll find some examples of bad LTC advice from an author who ought to know better and rebuttals from people who do.

*** New content added to the donor-only zone today is listed below. If you already qualify for The Zone, you can jump to this link , enter your user name and password, and read the new items immediately.

The LTC Reader #40--New Boomer Reality Check Survey
The LTC Reader #41--Female Caregivers Key to LTCI Demand

The LTC Data Base #40--Decline in Retiree Health Plans Underscores Need for LTCI
The LTC Data Base #41--Study Shows Carrier Doesn't Understand Why People Don't Buy LTCI

To enter The Zone ( ), contribute $100 ($150 after January 1, 2003) or more to the Center for Long-Term Care Financing (tax deductible) and email your preferred user name and password to . You'll be Zoned In before your check arrives. Mail to 2212 Queen Anne Avenue North, #110, Seattle, WA 98109 or contribute online at . ***

*** Tidbit: LTC is the poor relation of celebrity diseases. Now, even IBS or irritable bowel syndrome has a celebrity spokesperson, while long-term care has yet to attract a top star. Here are some excerpts from a recent NYT's article. "Everybody who is anybody has I.B.S., [the publicist] said, rattling off names: a comedian, an actress, a celebrity couple. Even John F. Kennedy, whose diagnosis was just made, posthumously. . . . Lynda Carter - an actress perhaps best remembered as Wonder Woman in the 1970's - was to be the new celebrity spokeswoman for the syndrome. And so a few days later, there was Ms. Carter, addressing a luncheon at a Midtown Manhattan hotel about, well, constipation. 'Sometimes people go two, three, four days, without. . . ." she said, then squeezed a toothy, anxious smile onto her face. An expectant silence followed. Ms. Carter, who as a superheroine wore golden wristlets that magically deflected bullets, coughed and sallied forth. 'I mean, if Bob Dole can talk about his penis. . . .' she added, sounding helpful. She was right, of course. In America, there is scarcely any disorder, no matter how lowly, that has not had its image enhanced thanks to a celebrity spokesman. Anemia and its cures have been championed by Danny Glover, rheumatoid arthritis by Kathleen Turner and bladder control by Debbie Reynolds. Rare syndromes have found spokesmen in Ben Affleck (ataxia-telangiectasia) and Rob Lowe (febrile neutropenia)." So, whatever happened to long-term care? When will a top celebrity step up to the task of raising the public's awareness of LTC? Source: Alex Kuczynski, "Treating Disease With a Famous Face," New York Times, December 15, 2002, ***


LTC Comment: Following is an article that purports to warn consumers about dangers of LTC insurance touted in a new book. Thereafter, read comments by author/trainer Phyllis Shelton and a critical book report by Center for Long-Term Care Financing President Stephen Moses.

"Insurance ombudsman and author Benjamin Lipson warns that the rush to sell long-term care policies could harm consumers. HOBOKEN, N.J., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Seventy-three million Americans are now over 50, a demographic not overlooked by the insurance companies that sell long-term care coverage. That's a huge market in anybody's book and the selling campaigns are intense. And what a market. Today's older Americans are affluent, but facing pressures from an uncertain securities market and low interest rates; more alert to the potential health problems that can require long-term care; and more fearful of how long-term health care costs can wipe out hard-won assets. Benjamin Lipson, author of "J.K. Lasser's Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Insurance" (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2002), has news for the concerned but unsuspecting consumer: Not everyone needs to buy long-term care insurance. The consumer ombudsman of 20 years' standing explains: 'I dedicated a whole chapter of the book to alternatives to long-term care insurance. That's why it's the book many insurance companies hope you never read. I wrote the book to arm consumers with information about the product and to give them the proper questions to ask, questions insurance companies hope you never ask.' Lipson is critical of the insurance industry's marketing tactics, which play up to seniors' fears. 'Everyone knows consumers will go bankrupt with expenses if their health declines, but what they want is security and independence.' Long-term care insurance is not necessarily the answer for most Americans, Lipson argues. 'You'd get better odds at a gambling casino than with insurance companies.' The insurance industry has been less than happy with his book, but Lipson says he believes consumers need to know what to look for. He advises those considering buying long-term care insurance to review their options with an individual broker who does not have ties to any one company and can help you shop. 'Buying insurance is one of the most difficult decisions a consumer faces,' Lipson has written, 'and buying long-term care insurance is perhaps the most difficult of all.' . . . Benjamin Lipson has been a consumer advocate and newspaper columnist for more than two decades. Known for his work on patient rights, senior health-care issues and long-term care insurance, he has written more than 500 articles for the Boston Globe. He is observing his 50th year as an independent insurance broker ("

Phyllis Shelton's comment: "Ben, I think you are doing a huge disservice to Americans by issuing the opinion you just did - I happen to believe that long-term care insurance is middle America's only shot at dignity as they get older. If your press release is responsible for even one family refusing to buy long-term care insurance and having a loved one wind up in a Medicaid nursing home with two roommates and no privacy and dignity, you should be ashamed. And please reconsider the impact that you have having on the economy. If the baby boomers fall onto any kind of public assistance, we will be faced with unprecedented taxation. I really don't think you are qualified to make the statement in your press release that 'Long-term care insurance is not necessarily the answer for most Americans,' and that 'You'd get better odds at a gambling casino than with insurance companies.' I will publish your press release on my website along with this rebuttal. God help you for the families you are hurting." Phyllis Shelton, Pres. LTC Consultants, .

Next, read a report on the Lipson book originally published in the Center for Long-Term Care Financing's donor only zone on April 16, 2002 as "The LTC Reader #16--Book Report--J.K. Lasser's Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Insurance, by Benjamin Lipson

When the Center for Long-Term Care Financing receives a book on long-term care insurance to review, the first thing we do is examine the chapter on Medicaid. If they can't get that critical subject right, why waste your time on the rest of the book? Unfortunately, Ben Lipson's J.K. Lasser's Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Insurance, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 2002 does not contain a chapter on Medicaid or Medicare, only a few pages.

Lipson cites some solid industry sources in his "Acknowledgements." He found a serious scholar to review the book positively in a Foreword: Yung-Ping Chen, the Frank J. Manning Eminent Scholar's Chair Professor of Gerontology at the U. of Mass., Boston. So, let's give the book a chance and take a close look at Chapter 14 on "Dos and Don'ts."

Oops. How about this: "Investigate all your long-term care options, including Medicaid, self-funding, reverse mortgages, and help from your family. You may not need to buy long-term care insurance." Hmmm. Let's rephrase that argument: "Investigate all your home protection options, including public welfare, self-funding, reverse mortgages, and help from your family. You may not need to buy FIRE INSURANCE."

How about this?: "Understand all of the benefits available for long-term health care insurance under Medicare. Do not confuse the distinct differences between Medicare and long-term care insurance." Strange words coming from an "expert." The first thing a rookie LTCI agent learns is that Medicare covers acute care and rehabilitation, not long-term custodial care, which is precisely why people need long-term care insurance.

And this?: "Do not buy multiple long-term care insurance policies; one policy is enough. Multiple policies mean multiple paperwork." Nonsense. Smart consumers buy a low-premium, catastrophic long-term care policy to protect against the risk of a long-term institutional stay as soon as they can afford one. If that is all they can afford, at least they're protected against the biggest risk. Then, when they're able financially, they can build on that foundation with additional coverage, perhaps to include home care and additional assisted living benefits.

Talking to parents about the risk of long-term care is every bit as important as talking to children about sex. The risks of silence are too great. There is nothing wrong with exploring whether your parents might be eligible for LTCI before you broach this sensitive subject with them. That's why we don't agree with this advice of Lipson's: "Don't go behind a parent's back, and without their informed consent, to try to determine their eligibility for coverage through discussions with an agent."

Of course, there is a lot of good, sensible advice in this book too, but you don't need us to ferret that out for you. We won't recommend against the book, but you can find others just as good that lack Lipson's condescending tone toward private insurance and his strong recommendations for consumers to consult Medicaid estate planning attorneys.