Professionally, Marion Somers, Ph.D., has been a geriatric care manager for 40 years, starting at a time when there wasn’t an actual job description for a geriatric care manager. “I would say to people, it’s like hiring a daughter,” she says.
Yet Somers, 71, asserts her work in the field began decades prior to that, when she was 9.
Growing up in Spanish Harlem, in a five-story walk-up along 126th Street in Manhattan, she would routinely run after-school errands for the elderly residents in the building, bringing them perishable groceries, like milk, bread and butter. (“In the days when people ate butter,” she recalls.) So, in a sense, Doctor Marion, as she is known, says she has “been in the field my whole life.”
Today, she wants to help more people — seniors, their families and even financial planners — get on the LTCI bandwagon. This summer, she crisscrossed the country in 1960s-era converted Greyhound bus on behalf of the 3in4 Need More Campaign to raise awareness of long-term care insurance, speaking to local media and even stopping by the GOP Straw Poll in Iowa to question Republican candidates for president about elder care issues. She has also authored a book, “Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One.”
Recently, LifeHealthPro.com caught up with Doctor Marion, who is based in Gardena, Calif., to get her thoughts on LTCI. Here is the first part of the interview. What she has to say is essential guidance for not only seniors and their families, but financial advisors as well.
SMA: Why are people reluctant to buy LTCI?
Marion Somers: One, they don’t understand the product and in fact many people don’t even know the product exists. So we are starting with profound ignorance [that] there is a safety net or a potential safety net. But even more than that, people don’t understand the costs involved with long-term health-care issues. They haven’t a clue. I try to be very gentle. I say, find out what it costs in your immediate neighborhood. What does it cost to have an aide come in? What does it cost to put someone in an assisted-living home or a nursing facility? What does it cost to retrofit your home to have someone move into your house?
They are also under the misunderstanding that the insurance they may have from their company or Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security or some governmental entity is going to come to their rescue. That is beyond wishful thinking. That is just not the reality.
SMA: How can advisors educate clients about LTCI?
Somers: It comes back to an informed consumer is always your best consumer. So what are the costs involved? What is the health history of your family? What are the potentials that are going to hit you as you get older?
Again, it’s not a scarce tactic. It’s a matter of let’s look at the realities. If your parents died at the age of 70, and they had health issues for the last 15 years of their life, then be prepared emotionally, psychologically and financially and the way to do that is with long term care insurance.
People just don’t understand the benefits of the product and they don’t understand that there is a lot of negotiation that goes into a product. If you can only do X [amount of dollars], because that is the only amount of money you feel you can put to this product, then negotiate, get the best you can for the money you feel your budget will stretch.
But people don’t understand it’s negotiable. Or that there may be ways of getting a discount, like have you gone to your HR department to see if you can get it at a group rate? Or maybe spouses can get it at a cheaper price if they both get a policy at the same time.
SMA: You bring up price objections. How can advisors overcome those concerns?
Somers: It’s more expensive if you get sick and can’t pay your bills. What is the impact on your family if you are not able to bring in whatever your income is? How will they be impacted? Will they lose the house, the roof over their heads? To me, the most loving thing in the world to do is to get long-term care insurance, not just for yourself, but [for] your family.