New alliances between the federal government, state governments and providers and sellers of long term care insurance are helping to increase choice and encourage more people to invest in their future coverage.
More than 15 million consumers across the country have been exposed to the potential advantages of owning long term care insurance, thanks to a direct mail awareness program conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and four states.
California, Connecticut, Indiana and New York currently participate in consumer-oriented “partnership programs” that serve as public and private alliances with select insurance companies to encourage more consumers to consider purchasing state-approved, quality LTCI policies. These policies include enhanced consumer protection features to encourage consumer consideration of LTCI.
In 2004, the California Partnership for Long Term Care began its own campaign to inform Californians about the availability of Partnership-certified LTCI and assist the public in identifying insurance agents in their community who supplied these products. In 2005, the Partnership selected the marketing firm Senior Direct Inc. to handle the direct mail program and work with agents statewide to test the ability to generate Partnership-specific leads.
Since then, Senior Direct Inc. has been testing different mailers and tracking the sales results. “The key to a successful direct mail leads program is a ?call to action’ from the promotion and publicity surrounding LTC issues,” says Senior Direct Inc. Vice President Richard Bufkin, who is heading up the program. “That call to action will hopefully result in the purchase of Partnership-certified LTCI policies. Consumers will be shown options and provided opportunities to make more educated decisions about plans for their potential LTC needs. We are hoping that consumers considering the purchase of a quality Partnership LTCI policy will realize how this type of policy can ease the financial and emotional burdens on themselves and their families, and costs associated with care.”
Senior Direct also developed its own Web-based agent management system, designed for insurance agents, which keeps close track of the direct mail program while allowing agents an efficient way to monitor their business. At the same time, the direct mail lead program supplies the state with the data needed to monitor and log in to the online system for the status of the direct mail leads. Senior Direct provides the appropriate direct mail leads to agents involved in the partnership effort for their use in the state program. They give this Web-based program to agents involved in the partnership for their use as well as for their regular book of business, at no cost. California has renewed the Senior Direct contract through June of 2009.
To introduce the promotion of the direct mailing leads program to other interested states, Senior Direct is now in the process of contacting and offering any interested state the same service. However, state officials find themselves facing a few questions, such as: “Should we turn consumer interest into a sale of LTC insurance?” and, “How does a state get involved in the lead business and sell insurance?”
The answer is simple – they don’t, but instead contract with a company to handle the marketing leads. Such companies respond to the agent who (1) is state authorized to sell Partnership policies; (2) agrees to the state-mandated policies to ensure consumer service; (3) stands ready to purchase and follow up the lead on a timely basis; and (4) shows interest, capability and efficiency to perform a professional job.
In California, agents have been receiving these qualified leads and have been converting the leads to sales. Bufkin says agents are standing in line to be part of the direct mail lead program. Although some agents have withdrawn from the lead program, those numbers are very few, Bufkin says, and new Partnership-certified agents are anxious to replace those leaving. “This is the most successful lead program we have ever run,” Bufkin says.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has a budget for an awareness program, accompanied by a mailer they’ve been sending out to states interested in participating. Americans are being made aware of the value of LTC and the planning process for potential LTC needs as a result of the direct mail leads program. It is now up to each state to use that consumer awareness to its advantage.
Senior Direct CEO Mark Seitman says his company is looking forward to meeting with other states to see if there is a fit between their efforts and the goals of the state – to inform, motivate and ultimately cover consumers with LTC protection.
“The earlier we can be involved in the development stage of the leads program, the better for all,” he says. “Once the state makes a decision to promote LTC coverage for the betterment of the state and its residents, calling in a company of experts to market a ?call to action’ is a necessity. Nothing really changes unless policies are sold.”
Seitman says Senior Direct is anxious to apply what it has learned to other states who are interested in developing a Partnership program. “Nothing is perfect, but we are excited to be a part of this national effort,” says Seitman. “Most of the mistakes and the costs incurred in learning are behind us, and we welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge with any state that is interested. None of our expertise revolves around developing the actual long term care product, but when the decision is made to reach the consumer, our expertise can go to work.”
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