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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

"It Won't Happen to Them" and Other Survey Stories

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I’m very keen on LTC and retirement survey results.

For one thing, they help understand the mysterious phenomenon of denial. Studying and understanding denial makes rejection a far less personal experience having to do with anything you said or didn’t say. Understanding denial proves “it’s not you”. This can result in less down time and more productivity.

Second, explaining survey results to a prospect may help them recognize their own denial, which can help an LTCI sale progress.

One interesting study was released in late September by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. NPR ran several stories on this survey the week it was released. (By the way, this link takes you to NPR’s story featuring Sally Leimbach, my good friend and sometime LTCI conference roommate. The story focused primarily on LTC planning and LTCI in particular, prime time. It was a welcome breath of fresh air because I am accustomed to mainstream media coverage of LTC planning mentioning LTCI only as an “aside” rather than a vital strategy for dealing with LTC.)

The same link above provides additional NPR coverage of this new study, as well as the actual study and slides.

Here’s the study’s striking evidence of the public’s vast disconnect from reality:

Only 14% of the pre-retirees predicted that their lives will be worse in retirement, but, in reality, 25% of the current retirees said their lives are worse.

Only 13% of the pre-retirees said their health will be worse in retirement, but 39% of the current retirees said their health is worse.

Only 22% of the pre-retirees said their financial situation will be worse in retirement, but 35% of the current retirees reported that their financial situation is worse.

Only 11% of the pre-retirees expect to be less able to travel once they retire, but 34% of the current retirees said they are less able to travel.

I bet that these statistically meaningful pre-retiree and retiree statistics were gathered mainly from respondents who have not been hit with LTC expenses, since LTC events typically are the last health events of one’s life. There would be even more disparity in these statistics if it were possible to ask these questions very late in life, not during the heart of retirement.

Responses like these cause me to ask, what planet do many boomers live on? This is overwhelming evidence that a great many baby boomers live in a fantasy world where they will not get old, poor or sick!

These results correlate beautifully with an Urban Institute study released in March. This study showed that in 2008 7.6 million Americans over 55 years old owned LTCI. This represents only 10.7% of us.

In July 2011, I wrote about the results of the 2010 Genworth/Age Wave survey. This survey dovetails beautifully with the new Robert Wood Johnson/Harvard School of Public Health study, by again showing actual evidence of denial. Its respondents are gravely concerned about needing LTC, yet few have done any LTC planning.

Echoing the results of the Genworth/Age Wave study, an early 2011 Prudential survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are not confident about their ability to pay for extended care if they were to need it today and that most still wrongly believe that long-term care will be funded by sources such as Medicare and personal health insurance.

The new Robert Woods Johnson/Harvard study correlates well with all of these studies. When asked whether waiting two years to receive Medicare benefits would result in hardship, approximately two-thirds of respondents answered “yes.”

These surveys make us better prepared to expect the same fairly mundane excuses about why prospects won’t discuss responsible LTC planning. We’ve heard them all: I can’t afford LTCI because my kids are in college, my business is bad, etc. Of course, we know we can get LTCI premiums affordable for the great majority of insurable people, and of course in these harsh economic times, LTCI is more essential now than it has ever been. No matter, this is irrelevant. When a prospect is in “excuse mode”, they will usually shut this conversation down before we are given the opportunity to prove this. There is nothing, no matter how clever and accurate it is, that any of us can say, when a prospect is in this mode. Knowing this is empowering to me. It helps me invest my time and effort more productively.

Bewildering, of course, is that such objections are often given by well-educated professionals and often despite the fact the excuse-maker was personally a caregiver, often for years.

These studies unfortunately, can’t help us understand why the majority of the public elects to choose denial over a little pro-active learning. The closest I can come to understanding denial is that it’s caused by an “it won’t happen to me” mentality. It is useful to be able to use these survey results to de-bunk “it won’t happen to me” thoughts.

Finding the correlating results between all these studies is empowering to me. I can never get too much confirmation of the existence of denial. The more evidence of the public’s denial of the need for responsible LTC planning I get, the more confident I am in myself and what I offer.


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