If you are a seller or provider of long term care insurance, you will at least have heard about the front-page lead article in last Monday’s New York Times–unless, that is, you have been living in a cave.
Even if you hate the Times (and I’m amazed at how many people do!) I would advise you to read the article, since you are going to have to deal with it one way or another if you are in the business. It’s not going to be enough to say, “Oh yeah, The New York Times, what do you expect?” as if the Times were an abattoir that produced only tainted meat.
Like it or not, the paper makes news by what it reports and forces the public and politicians to pay attention. Playing ostrich because you hate the messenger is a self-defeating strategy.
Granted that Monday morning’s edition is generally light on hard news, I still can’t remember when an investigative story got such play. It was in a 4-column box in the top right of the page (above the fold) with a 4-column picture of a woman comforting her obviously anguished mother. The headline read: “Aged, Frail and Denied Care by Their Insurers.”
The human focus of the article was the elderly woman pictured on the front page, Mary Rose Derks, who was 65 in 1990 when she started paying Conseco about $100 a month for an LTC policy. The article went into excruciating detail about the alleged runaround Mrs. Derks and her family have endured in their dealings with the insurer.
While acknowledging that “tens of thousands of elderly Americans have received life-prolonging care as a result of their long term care policies,” the article continues, “Yet thousands of policyholders say they have received only excuses about why insurers will not pay.”
Then comes the clincher: “Interviews by The New York Times and confidential depositions indicate that some long term care insurers have developed procedures that make it difficult–if not impossible–for policyholders to get paid.” The article cites a statistic provided by California that nearly 1 out of every 4 LTC claims in the state was denied in 2005.
The article also says that nationwide, “a disproportionate number [of complaints] have focused on Conseco, its affiliate, Bankers Life, and Penn Treaty.”