Every once in a while you come across something so astonishing that for once the adjective breath-taking is not an exaggeration. Such was my reaction to the findings of The MetLife Long-Term Care IQ Test, some of which we published in the Oct. 11 issue.

What this survey revealed was a pervasive ignorance about LTC in a society where more and more people are growing older and older and knowing less and less about it.

MetLife reported that only about one in three people passed the IQ test, “demonstrating a lack of basic knowledge about long-term care and the vast majority of them barely passed.”

Here in a nutshell are some of the abysmal results of the test, as found in the survey report:

–Fewer than 4 in 10 understood their likely longevity rate.

–Three out of 4 underestimated how many people over age 85 need assistance with activities of daily living.

–Only 1 in 5 correctly identified that most long-term care takes place in the home.

–Nearly half underestimated the cost of care in a nursing home.

–Four in 10 mistakenly believe that they are entitled to basic coverage for LTC from the government.

–More than 6 out of 10 did not correctly estimate the cost of waiting to buy LTC insurance until an older age.

MetLife said in the introduction to the report: “The IQ test was designed not only to gain new information, but also to provide a tool to help people make a preliminary assessment of their level of knowledge. A secondary goal was to help create awareness among various segments of the population about the importance of long-term care planning.”

Noble goals these. And such tests may well get consumers to start thinking aboutand maybe even purchaseLTC insurance. Wouldnt it be great if such tests were mandatory? OK, boomers, take your seats. Youre not getting any younger, you know, so were required to test your knowledge of long-term care. If you fail, be prepared to take remedial action.

But while such tests could provide consumer jolts here and there, I think their real value is for the industry. Each massive pothole of ignorance is something that can be filled in with that old, much-talked-about standby, education.

But after reading the results of this survey, not to mention innumerable others that have pointed to the same lack of knowledge among consumers on LTC, Im beginning to think that what needs to be addressed before education is something that Ill call de-education.

The fact is that peoples ignorance doesnt manifest itself by their admitting to simply not knowing. Rather, they believe that something elsenot the realityis true. So first, it is necessary to strip away these illusory beliefs with a campaign that directly attacks them; in other words, de-education.

Sorry, Jeannette, the government is not going to provide basic LTC coverage for you. No, Harry, the $35,000 that you think a nursing home costs is not going to cut it. Yes, Regina, there is a very good possibility that youll live to 90 and not be able to bathe or dress yourself.

Who is going to do this? Dont count on the government giving consumers much information, or on consumers reading it. If the industry is really serious about education in order to get LTC insurance off the shelves and into the portfolios of consumers, then it needs to initiate some kind of concerted effort.

The template created by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education is a good one, so the wheel doesnt have to be reinvented. And while an LTC effort wouldntand probably couldntmatch LIFEs reach and scope, it could be the spark providing illumination to millions.

Steve Piontek

Editor-in-Chief


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, October 14, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.