Health care and long term care are not the same. I mentioned that point a few months ago. assuming that it is a well known fact.

My assumption was wrong. For many people, the lines between the two are blurry or nonexistent.

For instance, a number of people and publications often refer to LTC as health care or a form of health care, and to LTC insurance as a health insurance or a form of health care insurance. Not long ago, I even heard a director of a large LTC facility refer to LTC insurance as health insurance, period.

This is not unlike the tendency of people to view dental insurance and vision care insurance as health care insurance. This helps explain the big gasp they make when their employer decides to terminate the dental plan and/or the vision care plan but leave the health care plan in place. It makes no sense to them; in their eyes, the coverages are all the same.

It doesn’t help that LTC is offered by “life and health insurance companies” or that some marketers actually introduce LTC insurance to audiences as “another part of your health insurance” or as “a gap filler for your health insurance.” Some even call it “long term health care insurance” or “health and accident insurance.” Complicating matters even more are the specific laws under which the LTC products are filed in the various states.

Perhaps it’s time for LTC professionals to take up this issue, clarifying for customers and the general public just what LTC insurance is and is not.

Clarity about this will not only help the debate in Washington about a health care reform and whether or not to include LTC in that reform. It will also help clients understand just why they should be considering this coverage.

Yes, LTC insurance helps pay for a specialized form of care. But, as LTC e-Wire readers know, this care is very different from the kind of care paid for by medical insurance. The risks are different; the underwriting is different; and the expected outcomes are different.

I know. I know. This is the Definitions Game, and the industry has already played it. It has defined itself and what it does in public promotion campaigns for many a year. LTC advisors and specialist have done the same when working with clients and prospects. Even some brokerage houses discuss LTC insurance, particularly if the broker is building an investment plan that fits with the customer’s overall financial and lifecycle plan.

According to numerous advisors and insurers, these definition efforts have been fruitful. Insurance customers do want LTC coverage, once they hear about it and what it does, they tell me.

But it could be that the LTC industry never really targeted the LTC/healthcare divide. How else to explain so much confusion on this question? Or maybe the industry created clarity but only for a fairly discrete audience. This may explain the too easy incorporation of LTC into the various health care reform proposals by members of Congress–who may have never heard how the two forms of coverage differ.

The critical illness industry has had a similar challenge. As the product began being marketed in the United States, CI specialists found that they had to discuss how their policies compare and contrast to health care insurance–and LTC insurance, too.

Indeed, CI specialists drove that point into the ground. At every client seminar. In every product presentation. At every opportunity. They did not just talk about the unique gap that CI fills; they anticipated the customer’s confusion about how this coverage differs from more established types of coverage like health care and LTC. They drew their own line in the sand so there would be no doubt.

If readers agree that many, if not most, people do not know the difference between LTC and health care, maybe it’s time to draw another line in the sand. LTC professionals everywhere can make the point wherever they are, until there is no doubt. Blog your own ideas on how to do that in the space below or send us an e-email using the link below. It won’t hurt, and it could help.

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–Linda Koco, Managing Editor, Products and Managing Editor, e-Publications
National Underwriter Life & Health