In Samuel Beckett’s famous existential play, “Waiting for Godot,” the characters eagerly anticipate and alternatively despair for the all-important but always elusive “Godot” to arrive.
For those of us who have been toiling in the field of long term care insurance for its more than two decades of evolution, life sometimes can feel like the industry is waiting for Godot.
It has been waiting for consumers, in particular the baby boomers, to “wake up” to the financial dilemma of long term care and the advantages of planning ahead. It has been waiting for comprehensive federal legislative initiatives, like an above-the-line tax deduction, to provide what industry leaders believe will be a major boost to the market. It has been waiting for employers to more aggressively embrace long term care as a voluntary benefit and take a sustaining interest in employee education and promotion.
But unlike the characters in Beckett’s play, who do nothing but talk about how wonderful life will be if only Godot would come or complain because they have to wait, industry professionals can feel good about the inventiveness, advocacy and determination with which the industry has pursued initiatives to move its products and business along their evolution.
There have been both successes and disappointments from this struggle. For example, in 1996, the LTC insurance industry attained much sought after tax clarification. But while the somewhat limited tax advantages of LTC insurance provided some new talking points, they did not have the hoped-for impact on sales.
Earlier in that decade, companies greatly expanded coverage (e.g., providing meaningful home care and other alternatives to institutional care) and redesigned products based on objective benefit triggers.
As a result, these improved products helped the industry increase consumer confidence, market appeal and subsequently sales. These changes also provided many insurers in the industry with more financially sound and successful products.
But important changes still needed to be made in the areas of rate stability and risk management; the business has been tackling those, as well.
Those changes came, however, at a rough time in the economy when a significant downturn challenged both product pricing and consumer affordability. While the end result will once again be greater consumer confidence in the industry’s products, the business is still working through and recovering from the bumps and shocks of that transition.