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Las Vegas, Nev.

Top executives of five designation programs in the long term care and senior insurance markets tackled the “confusion” issue head on at a meeting here.

Each executive appeared on a panel at the 3rd Annual Intercompany LTCI Conference sponsored by Society of Actuaries. The panel topic was LTC insurance training and designation programs. When the session opened to the floor for questions, an executive from AARP promptly stood up to voice concern about the meaning of the various designations.

For the past 15 years, AARP has been concerned about the knowledge and quality of people selling the LTC insurance product, said Van Ellet, health policy team leader in AARPs state legislation department.

But now that there are several professional designation programs addressing that issue, Ellet said he is becoming concerned about another issue. “How do you (the designation program executives) intend to address consumer confusion about the various designations? We want for you to be able to say, Were professional, were qualified and we know what were talking about.”

All of the programs are doing important work, said panel moderator Ron Hagelman Jr., when introducing the speakers. But he, too, said he has been confused about which does what. The vice president of special markets for State Life Insurance Company in New Braunfels, Texas, Hagelman said he is now taking the various designation programs himself just to find out. He has completed three already since last fall.

The American Association for Long Term Care Insurance is dealing with the issue by educating nonprofit aging groups, said Margie Barrie, who heads up marketing and sales for the Westlake Village, Calif.-based agent association. AALTCI confers the Long Term Care Professional (LTCP) designation in a joint effort with Health Insurance Association of America.

“Our focus is to get the word out about the importance of working with someone who has a designation,” said Barrie, who is also president of LTCI Consulting Group Inc., University Park, Fla. The emphasis is on a person with a designation, not a particular designation, she indicated.

Rolled out in late 2001, the LTCP program has over 1,200 candidates, most of them producers, according to Jesse Slome, the executive director.

At the Corporation for LTC Certification, “we look at who we train, and we also try to raise the level of comfort with those who already have recognition in the community,” said Harley Gordon.

An elder law attorney from Newton, Mass, Gordon is a founding partner of the corporation, which has been offering the Certified in Long-Term Care (CLTC) certification since 1999. Over 6,000 individuals now have the CLTC, which aims at professionals who want exposure to elder law concepts as well as LTC and other senior issues.

Organizations such as AARP can help consumers decide which designation to look for, Gordon suggested. They can do this by sorting out, for instance, which type of designation meets certain types of needs, he indicated.

As time goes on, predicted Robert Pearson, president of CareQuest University, Neenah, Wis., there probably will be a shakeout among the various designation programs. Also, others will be evaluating the programs and making up their own minds.

CareQuest University grants the Long Term Care Group (LTCGS) Specialist certification, which is currently the only LTC designation program geared to employer groups and associations, said Pearson. It debuted in 1999 and has just introduced a new curriculum.

Having knowledge leaders in the marketplace is essential, Pearson contended, reminding the audience that “the first person who gets the LTC call (when a care event happens) is the LTC advisor.”

“We do have an alphabet soup” with the various designations, conceded Jan Kaplan, president of the Center for Senior Studies, Coral Springs, Fla. Founded in 1999, the center offers two designations–the Certified Senior Specialist (CSS), for those wishing to become senior advisors, and the Long Term Care Insurance Specialist (LTCIS), for those wishing to specialize in LTC.

What is most important in the debate is the education process itself, Kaplan said.

Specifically, it is important for the various designation programs and designees to educate the public, he said. “We need to get the word out that there are designations, and it is necessary for consumers to find someone who can advise and guide them.”

The differences in the programs can be confusing, agreed Edwin J. Pittock, president and founder of the Society of Senior Certified Professionals, Denver. But consumer confidence can be built, he contended, particularly as the various programs move toward self-regulation (such as enforcing ethical standards) and also raising standards for those obtaining the designations.

Formed in 1996, the Society grants the Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) designation, aimed at senior advisors in not only financial services but also in medicine, law and several other fields.

Currently, over 11,000 have the CSA designation, he said. The group self-regulates through a comprehensive ethical code, and it has revoked and suspended a few designees, Pittock said.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 10, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.