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Editorial Comment: The Economy Is No Reason To Go Dark On LTC Insurance

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A quick overview of today’s financial news will provide LTC insurance specialists with plenty of information in support of the argument that consumers need to plan for their financial future-as well as take responsibility for their financial present.

But information about how long term care insurance can help with that planning seems to have been in short supply in the past few months. Public media seems to mention precious little about LTC coverage, LTC seminars, articles, promotions, etc. If there has been a lot of advertising about LTC insurance lately, I must have missed it.

Perhaps the constant reporting on the “financial crisis” and on the presidential election has just downed out discussion of other aspects of financial life.

Fortunately, the “Long Term Care Awareness Month” campaign of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, Westlake Village, Calif., starts November 1, 2008. It is to run all month long, according to AALTCI Executive Director Jessie Slome.

That’s just “in the nick of time,” as the saying goes. Consumers really need reminders about how this coverage ensures funding for care when a person needs it most—at time of incapacitation-no matter what the economy is doing. This is especially so during today’s period of financial turmoil.

As everyone knows, in response to today’s financial difficulties, people are economizing in all sorts of ways. They’re cutting back on gasoline usage, travel, dining out, clothing purchases, and much more. It’s not a far stretch to see why some are also economizing on insurance (by shopping for the best rates, for instance) and/or delaying purchase of coverages.

Where LTC insurance is concerned, some may decide that, given all of today’s economic uncertainty, this is not the time to purchase a policy or even to start developing a LTC plan for themselves. Besides, they may say, “it is a long time before I’ll have to deal with long term care at all, so I’ll just hold off for now. That’s the best use of my money.”

These consumers desperately need a reality check, and it behooves the LTC advisors and LTC insurance industry to provide it.

Specifically, industry experts should be reminding the public of a very important point-namely, that if a person needs LTC, that person will not be able to wait for improved financial conditions to get the care. If the person doesn’t qualify for public funding, the person will have to find a way to pay for the care or risk the grave consequences that can result from going without care.

True enough, people often rationalize that, should they need care, they can always ask family or friends to help out. Or, they may think they will cope by paying for just a little bit of care-”less than the doctor ordered, but it should be enough.” Or they may reject the doctor’s advice to get care, reasoning that “I’ll be just fine without any care at all.”

This is exactly the kind of thinking that the industry’s advisors and marketers need to address. The public needs to hear, again and again, that those seemingly “economical” choices-family/friends care, limited self-paid care, or no care-are really very expensive, during tough economic times or good times.

To wit: a person trying to make it on family/friends care may experience heightened stress due to certain challenges present in the personal relationships. That stress can exacerbate certain medical problems and cause new ones. Meanwhile, those who use limited or no care will surely face heightened risk of harm to self.

Consumers need to hear from advisors who can help them see those other costs. They need advisors who can line up all the costs of buying versus all the costs of not buying. They need advisors and insurers that can present credible information about how and why LTC insurance should be part of their financial picture, rain or shine, financial meltdown or not.

Without informed input to the contrary, consumers will be preoccupied with the meltdown and have little or no motivation to “think LTC.” That means the industry really cannot afford to go dark on its messaging, not even for a few months. It needs to get behind the AALTCI’s 2008 LTC Awareness Month and also provide LTC education and information all year long.

AALTCI’s Slome says 11 insurers have agreed to work together on a consumer campaign as part of this year’s awareness month. That’s a “milestone,” compared to campaigns in previous years, he indicates. Considering the previous discussion, it’s also very good news for consumers, and for advisors who are trying to reach consumers about LTC-despite the economy.