LTC Bullet:  Virtual Visit to the 11th Annual ILTCI Conference in Atlanta, GA

Thursday, March 10, 2011


LTC Comment:  Another fine industry meeting is behind us and optimism is on the rise.  Check it out vicariously after the ***news.***

*** CLASS DEBATE.  Read my 3-minute opening salvo in the debate between Connie Garner (AdvanceCLASS) and Rhonda Richards (AARP) on the pro-CLASS side versus John Greene (NAHU) and Steve Moses (CLTCR) on the anti-CLASS side.  Find it here along with the dozen provocative questions I posed to the CLASS advocates.  Don't miss a chance to hear this spirited ILTCI conference debate when a recording becomes available. *** 

*** HAVE CAKE, EAT TOO, CHARGE THE WEALTHY.  A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that fewer than 25 percent of Americans were in favor of reducing Medicare or Social Security to help deal with the federal budget deficit. The majority of respondents did approve of trimming Social Security and Medicare payments to wealthier Americans and increasing the retirement age to 69 by 2075.  AHCA / NCAL Gazette - Thursday, March 3, 2011 *** 

*** HELP FOR NEW YORK.  Empire Center for New York State Policy press release:  "The report, written by Stephen A. Moses, suggests that New York's Medicaid program could ultimately save up to $2.9 billion in combined federal, state and local funds by tightening eligibility criteria, enforcing federally mandated recovery of paid benefits, promoting home equity conversion prior to Medicaid eligibility, and encouraging the purchase of private long-term care insurance." *** 


LTC Comment:  As I write this, I'm boarded and awaiting departure for the return to Seattle.  Sitting beside me is Tom Riekse, Sr. of LTCI Partners.  So let's ask his impression of the 11th annual ILTCI Conference just ended in Atlanta. 

Tom, what did you think of the meeting and the future prospects for LTCI? 

Tom Riekse, Sr.:  "I'm coming away from the conference upbeat and optimistic.  The 'carrier bumps' of last year are behind us; the CLASS program will raise public awareness of the LTC risk; and we're poised for growth." 

"Energize Our Industry" was the theme of The Eleventh Annual Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference.  Its goal:  "To provide a dynamic setting for engaging discussion, fun-filled networking and a truly rewarding educational experience."  From the opening keynote address on aging demographics through the extensive selection of educational breakout sessions and wide-ranging exhibit hall booths to the closing "Casino Night," the program delivered.  In case you missed it, here's a thumbnail summary of the conference as I experienced it. 

Opening session:  Steven Mosher, a world renowned population expert and president of the Population Research Institute, opened the meeting Monday morning with the message that more elderly in the future with fewer young people to take care of them make long-term care insurance more important than ever. 

Four CLASS sessions:  This truly was a CLASS conference for me.  My first four breakout sessions were pure CLASS, starting with CLASS 101.  Eileen Tell of Univita introduced CLASS maven Connie Garner, Policy Director, Government Strategies, Foley Hoag, LLP and Executive Director of Advance CLASS and Laura Lawrence, Director of Benefits Administration and Enrollee Services, Office of Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS Office), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Garner explained the history and goals of CLASS.  She defended the new program against common points of criticism deflecting claims CLASS is just another government Ponzi scheme.  Co-Presenter Lawrence described her unit's efforts and progress toward design and implementation of the CLASS program.  Bottom line:  it's a work in progress and we won't know many more details for a long time.  The take away?  Unless and until CLASS designers identify a benefit people want at a price point they're willing to pay, the program will not be implemented

My second breakout was "CLASS Act and the Employer Group Market" featuring a role play between Peter Lucas (Employer) and Peter Goldstein (LTCI provider) exploring the challenge of what to do when your LTCI carrier bails out and you have to decide between bringing in a new private LTCI carrier, going with CLASS, or some combination of the two.  Steve Cain wrapped the session explaining how LTCI Partners approaches this dilemma pointing out that "CLASS legitimates all our arguments.  It is the government saying 'we want employers to offer this protection.'  CLASS will be a catalyst for a ton of meetings in which we can build rapport, establish credibility, and advance the conversation."  With the government allocating $93 million to market the need for LTC protection, these presenters concluded "CLASS will be a boon to our business." 

My third CLASS breakout ("Panacea or Problem:  Point/Counterpoint on CLASS") was a debate between Connie Harner and AARP's Rhonda Richards arguing in favor of the program and John Greene of NAHU and myself opposing.  Great fun.  Peter Goldstein of Univita moderated with Eileen Tell in the wings ensuring that two strict timekeepers kept any of us from running on.  Three-minute openings by each panelist were followed by tough questions from the moderator to alternating sides allowing two-minute responses and one-minute rebuttals.  It was a lively session.  To give you the flavor, check out my three-minute opening salvo and our questions to the pro-CLASS side here.  You'll learn about the new private insurance company I'm forming based on the same principles as CLASS:  "Steve's Insurance, LTC for You" or SILY for the NASDAQ ticker.  Sorry I can't be more fair and balanced as I don't have the other side's openings or questions and I was too busy responding to their tough questions to take notes.  

CLASS breakout number four for me came the next day.  Louis Brownstone moderated as Steve Schoonveld, Barry Fisher and Bill Comfort presented "CLASS:  Friend or Foe?"  Schoonveld explained the problems that gave rise to CLASS and urged patience and understanding, while Fisher focused on problems CLASS is likely to cause and urged colleagues to oppose CLASS implementation at every opportunity.  Comfort split the difference observing "CLASS is a direct competitor and we'll win." 

During the lunch break on the second day, the 3in4 Need More campaign had a press conference to introduce the LTCI industry's answer to dairy's "Got Milk" message.  Special guest Dr. Marion keynoted the PR session.  We'll publish a video link to the press conference soon so enough said for now, except to say . . . 

Spotted at the 3in4 Need More event and throughout the ILTCI conference was Glenn Ruffenach of the Wall Street Journal.  Maybe there's hope for some good publicity for LTCI now that the industry's prime competitors--government safety net programs--are collapsing.  Remember the year the New York Times chose opening day of the conference for an expose' of the industry's alleged failure to pay claims?  The accusations proved baseless on examination, but evidently exoneration isn't "news." 

Finally, toward the tail end of the conference, I attended a breakout session not purely about CLASS:  "Washington Watch:  What's Up in Washington, DC."  John Cutler introduced lobbyists Sam Morgante and Bob Blancato who delivered insightful observations about the post-midterm-election political situation.  With 95 new House members and a change in leadership, lobbyists have their work cut out for them to form new relationships and plot strategies.  Three cross currents complicating matters include simultaneous consideration of frequent continuing resolutions, efforts to agree on a FY 2011 budget, and the President's 2012 budget proposal.  In the background affecting everything is the deficit/debt issue including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid unfunded liabilities.  There's a lot of interest in CLASS at this conference, but it's barely on their radar screens in Congress, though the Administration is busy designing and implementing the program.  Expect no movement on tax incentives at the federal level.  Who matters in the world of LTC is clearing up.  HHS Secretary Sebelius is a former governor and former insurance commissioner.  She knows the Medicaid and LTC insurance issues.  Likewise, Kathy Greenlee, heading the Administration on Aging has the responsibility for CLASS.  She served as council to the Kansas Insurance Commission and attended NAIC meetings.  She brings a neutral, professional standing to the position.  She listens.  Two names in the White House that know a lot about LTC:  Gene Lambrew and Liz Fowler.   

Tip:  The "LTC Discussion Group" meets frequently in Washington, DC but people call in from all across the country to hear presentations and discuss a very broad range of issues.  Attendees include representatives of all sorts of for-profit and non-profit groups interested in long-term care policy.  "One of best collaborative groups," according to Morgante.  Eileen Tell says check out the website:  Membership is free.  Thanks to AHIP for sponsoring and to Univita for hosting the website.   

My last breakout session was "Critical Findings in LTC Insurance Buyer and Non-Buyer Behavior," a report by Marc Cohen of LifePlans and John O'Leary of LTC Marketing on 20 years of research into the topic.  "This session summarizes key findings from the 4th generation of AHIP's buyer and non-buyer studies, including results from a general population survey as well."  A few highlights:  eight major carriers do 80% of the LTCI individual business.  Average age of purchase has plummeted from 68 to 59 years, but seems to have stabilized at 59.  Two-thirds of buyers are married and that's stable too.  Three-fourths of buyers have incomes over $50,000 and the average income of buyers has doubled since 1990.  Their asset profile remains nearly constant at $100,000.  Both buyers and non-buyers are older than the general population.  Non-buyers make an active decision not to buy and tend to believe others will pay.  Buyers are more likely than non-buyers to know how much LTC costs.  The preponderance of policies sold are comprehensive; 90% cover all service modalities.  Average premium is a little less than $2,300.  For more, watch for Marc's slides to be posted here:  While you're at it, check out John O'Leary's presentation and slides on the group side of the business. 

The substantive portion of the conference closed with a "CEO Forum."  On the stage were Brad Buechler, Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company; Mike DeKoning, Munich American Reassurance Company; Jim Glickman, LifeCare Assurance Company; Frank O'Neill replacing Marianne Harrison, John Hancock Life Insurance Company; Matt Sharpe, Genworth Financial; and Steve Sperka, Northwestern Mutual.  David Kerr moderated.  Topics discussed included: 

- Successes and lessons learned over the past year
- The future viability of LTCI
- Update on CLASS
- Challenges facing our industry - Outcomes from the 2010 LTC Think Tank
- Perspectives from industry representatives (providers, TPAs and agents)
- New product initiatives 

As in past years, the audience voted on a series of questions with the results electronically tabulated and displayed.  The discussion moved fast.  No big news or controversy broke.  In fact, attendees I asked said the session was "same old, same old."  Rather flat.  Seems the CEOs are very careful what they say at these public sessions.  That's another reason why the private, one-to-one conversations that this conference makes possible are so valuable.  Of the options attendees were given for future CEO Forums such as "keep it the same," "more audience participation," "less audience participation," etc. the one that won was "do it in a debate format."  I like that idea as debates are fun and very revealing, but the consensus I heard was "ain't gonna happen." 

The conference ended for me at "Casino Night" where prizes went to the players who rallied their initial stash of play money into the biggest take.  A good time was had by all. 

Learn much more about the conference at its website,, where you'll find all the sessions and special programs described as well as copies of the presentation PowerPoints. 

Special thanks to the organizers, corporate sponsors and to Vince Bodnar of DaVinci Consulting who had lead responsibility this year.