LTC Bullet: Pre-emptive LTC Media Response
Friday, March 14, 2008
LTC Comment: Will the forthcoming long-term care insurance industry conference in Jacksonville, FL be targeted by misguided front-page criticism in the national media as the last two meetings were? If so, we're ready this time with a thoughtful, impassioned "pre-response" after the ***news.***
*** MORE MEDIOCRE MEDIA. Sometimes media coverage of long-term care insurance isn't blatantly bad or incompetent, but just lazy and careless. A good example is a recent National Public Radio piece titled "Boomers Reluctant over Long-Term Care Insurance," by Patti Neighmond. Read it and/or listen for four minutes at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88164892. The theme of the piece is that consumers are complacent about LTC planning because insurance is expensive, they think Medicare pays, and besides, who knows what service delivery will be like in the future and if today's policies will pay for tomorrow's service modalities? In other words, NPR hits all the usual red herrings and misses the only thing that matters: the publicly financed LTC safety net in place since 1965 won't be there when today's boomers need it. That's why "boomers" are "reluctant over LTCI"--they don't know what's in store for them--and until the media understand and tell the truth about what the future holds for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, nothing much will change. ***
*** LTC AMMUNITION. Don't wait for the next media barrage against LTCI and then scramble to respond. Line up your data and arguments and be ready. Neither the mindless media attacks nor their valid criticism ever change. So, prepare. Here are two excellent ways to do that:
(1) Join the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance and get AALTCI's "2008 LTC Insurance Sourcebook." It's chock-a-block with useful information to help you make the case for private LTC insurance. Jesse Slome calls it a "single source for current rates for care, insurance company rankings and latest statistics on policy buyers, policy usage and claims." It is definitely "a valuable and effective resource for industry professionals." Contact: American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance at (818) 597-3227 or e-mail: jslome@AALTCI.org. ***
(2) Join the Center for Long-Term Care Reform, read our daily LTC E-Alerts and LTC Bullets, study the enormous repository of information in the Center's public and private websites, consult the "Almanac of Long-Term Care" in The Zone, our password-protected website for members only. To join, contact Damon at 206-283-7036 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't miss our reports from the National Long-Term Care Consciousness Tour. Invest some time and money to pursue our common cause: responsible LTC planning and rational LTC public policy. Then use what you learn to protect more people as you increase your own earnings. ***
*** MORE FROM AALTCI AND JESSE SLOME. "A brief note to LTCi Producers Summit attendees to let you know that we have posted PowerPoint presentations provided by speakers on the Association's Website. Here is the link: http://www.aaltci.org/audios/. Then click on the link for the 2008 Summit. If you found the Summit of value, please let others (especially producers) know. Audios of sessions are available ($20 for the first, $15 for additional). And, there's special pricing for those ordering all 7 Producer Panels (great info for those looking to sell more ... or start selling). Thanks. Jesse, Jesse Slome, Executive Director, American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, (818) 597-3227, mailto:email@example.com." ***
LTC BULLET: PRE-EMPTIVE LTC MEDIA RESPONSE
LTC Comment: The day before the Wall Street Journal published a slanted, inadequately researched attack on private LTCI (Feb. 22), I spent all day recording video interviews with leaders in the long-term care insurance industry. Watch for those interviews coming soon to the "LTC Tour's" YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/LTCconsciousnessTOUR. Check out my interview with Honey Leveen, a top-notch LTCI producer in Houston, TX, posted just last night.
Here's how I described the interviewees' commitment to LTC planning in my letter to the authors of the WSJ piece:
"Successful marketers of LTC insurance are nearly to the person driven by passion and dedication engendered by a tragic personal long-term care experience with a friend or family member."
I also found that to be true almost without exception during my 25 years of dealing with private long-term care insurance specialists.
The industry does face a challenge in the fact that the vast majority of all LTCI coverage--some say as much as 80 percent--is sold by non-specialists who probably don't have the same level of passion or knowledge about the product as the experts.
That being acknowledged, the big question is why so few people specialize in selling long-term care insurance. The answer to that question is obvious. As I said in my letter to the Wall Street Journal:
"Are commissions high for long-term care insurance? Of course they are. How else can you get people to sell a product decades before people need it that the government has been giving away, after the insurable event occurs, since 1965? It takes an altruistic, masochistic genius to make a living selling long-term care insurance in the face of headwinds like the WSJ's coverage and the predominance of government-financed long-term care."
What follows is an eloquent and passionate statement by one of those "AMGs" of long-term care. We republish Ross Schriftman's testimony (with permission) as an example of what drives people who are dedicated to responsible LTC planning and rational LTC public policy. We hope the media, when they criticize private LTC insurance, will consider stories like this, carefully research and report the good that private LTCI does, and apply equal scrutiny to the failing public LTC financing programs that private insurance could help if given half a chance.
Pennsylvania Department of Aging Testimony
By Ross Schriftman
Thank you for this opportunity to address the Department. My name is Ross Schriftman. I am a health insurance agent specializing in long term care insurance and Medicare supplement insurance. I served for many years as Legislative Chair for the Pennsylvania Association of Health Underwriters and was Long Term Care Chair for the National Association of Health Underwriters.
I am here today to challenge the Department to take an active role in encouraging Pennsylvanians of all ages to plan for long term care. Most people are unaware of the devastating financial, emotional and physical cost of providing care to their loved ones until they need the care. Without proper planning family members are faced with a loss of a job, reduction in career goals, damage to their own health due to physical and emotional strain and arguments between family members especially between those who are providing the care and those who are only providing advice. Here is a link to the website of the National Alliance of Caregivers. It is http://www.caregiving.org . There you will find a number of important studies that have been done about how lack of planning can be devastating to individuals and our society. I am here to tell you that the most valuable tool in planning for this need is long term care insurance.
Today is my Mom's 83rd birthday. We are having a celebration on Sunday at the house she and I share. I would not be here today if I didn't plan and have long term care insurance in place for her and for me. Many years ago, I promised her two things. First, that if she ever needed care she would remain at home as long as possible. The second promise I made was to keep her off welfare.
My Mother became single when my parents divorced in 1973. On a secretary's salary she maintained and paid for her home, raised four children and helped us get through college. In 1975, she fell and broke her back. Her disability income benefits ran out and she went on welfare. When she finally went back to work she paid back all of the welfare payments she received. Eventually she paid off the mortgage on the house.
My mother is a loving person and has spent a lifetime caring for others. She took in her elderly Aunt; the last living relative in Boston. She took in her Father after her Mother died. She even offered to take in my Father's parents even though my parents were divorced. Now it is her time to be cared for and as her primary care giver that is what I am doing. My mother has Alzheimer's disease.
I can tell you that there are tremendous sacrifices that I am making... However, the one thing that has made the financial impact less damaging is the fact that in 1990 I purchased a long term care insurance policy for her. I have paid those premiums for 17 years. In September, I contracted with a home health agency and now have a wonderful live-in companion care giver named Nora. . . . The insurance pays a large portion of the cost of Nora caring for my Mom. Within the next 3 months I will have recovered in benefits all the premiums I have paid over the last 17 years. I believe long term care insurance is the best tool available for addressing the financing of long term care. It is the most efficient and effective way for people to pay for their care. I have had several of my clients receive benefits over the years and I have several in similar situations to my Mom's where benefits continue to be paid.
Compare this to the expectations that people have about government programs like Medicaid. Attached to my testimony are two articles that I recently saw [omitted here]. One talks about the financial problems with nursing care coverage in Connecticut. The other addresses the program in Florida. The minimum number of hours of care required in Connecticut is 1.9. In Florida it is 2.9 hours. I have two questions. First, what is the required minimum number of hours of care here in Pennsylvania under our Medicaid program? Second, what happens during the other 22 hours while the patient is there in the facility? These people have Medicaid, but do they really have the care they think they do? Do their family members realize what is happening to the reimbursements and the shortage of care givers?
What about home care which everyone wants. Why not expand Medicaid to providing care where people want it? Isn't it cheaper there? Won't having more people remain at home instead of going to a facility save the taxpayers' money?
Does anyone really think that Medicaid would provide 24 hour care at home to people like my Mom and allow me to pick which agency and which care giver is the right one for her? Will people get approved for home care and then find out that there family members still have to quit there jobs because there are not enough care givers because of low Medicaid reimbursements?
Other states have tried expanded home care waivers. New York has one. They have more people covered at home now under their waiver program than they do in nursing homes.
In my opinion, expanding home care under Medicaid without very specific restrictions will discourage people to take personal responsible and plan. Why buy long term care insurance and pay a premium when the perception is that you can get it for free from the government.
As champions of this cause, we as long term care agents are up against tough competition and it is not each other. It is Medicaid planning.
My Mom used to get very formal invitations to come to seminars, get a free meal and learn "...how to get the government to pay for your nursing care without buying insurance." I have attached copies of some of these invites. People are encouraged to avoid "expensive" long term care insurance in favor of "free" help from the government. Why bother planning? And yet programs like Medicaid and Medicare are facing tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liability
Many American's are looking abroad for solutions. Some claim a so called single payer system of healthcare would be cheaper. What about including long term care as part of a national cradle to grave healthcare system. Isn't that more efficient? It is not. Take a look at the article attached [omitted here] which addresses Norway's crumbling long term care benefit. People are entitled to it. They have paid a significant higher percentage of their income in taxes for it. And yet they do not get benefits when they need them due to a shortage of providers and money in the system.
So what should the Department do? The good news is that this month the national "Own Your Future" awareness campaign is coming to Pennsylvania. Interestingly, this is happening at a time when the Democratic Presidential Campaign is also coming to our state. What a great time to address this issue.
In additional, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just approved Pennsylvania's long term care partnership program that was enacted by the Commonwealth last May. This program encourages more people to purchase long term care insurance and protect some of their assets from consideration on spend down rules under Medicaid.
The Department should work with the long term care insurance agent community in promoting these two initiatives. Hold public information gatherings. Work with the other agencies within the Commonwealth to develop an overall campaign to make people aware that they can prepare for the high likelihood that family members will need substantial assistance with their personal care needs. Finally, promote long term care insurance as a way to have choices and as "personal care" insurance so people will understand the value of such coverage.
I and organizations such as the Pennsylvania Association of Health Underwriters and the Philadelphia Area Chapter of the Long Term Care Guild stand ready to help the Department. Utilize are knowledge and life experiences. We are the ones who spend time meeting with families and helping them address their unique needs, goals and dreams.
At this time I would be happy to answer your questions.
Ross Schriftman, RHU, LUTCF, ACBC, MSAA has been an insurance representative since 1975. He is an employee benefit specialist with Kistler Tiffany Benefits of Berwyn, Pennsylvania and serves as the firm's individual long term care and Medicare supplement insurance products specialist. Contact him at 215-682-7075 or Rfs270@aol.com.