The 3in4 Association’s bus is returning to New York’s Times Square this week, just across the Hudson River from me, and, seriously: I think the bus is working at generating enthusiasm.

At least, it’s making me feel enthusiastic.

No one is paying me to feel a hokey sense of pleasure at the idea of a long-term care (LTC) planning bus coming back into my area.

If anything, my editors would prefer to avoid letting me overdose on the cheese factor. 

But there’s just something really appealing about the idea of an LTC expert named Dr. Marion (Marion Somers) driving a vintage bus across the country to promote an idea that’s obviously a great idea.

I don’t know if any particular long-term care insurance (LTCI) product is a good product. I don’t really, truly know whether LTCI products in general will work the way people expect them to work. I don’t feel as if I have any sense of certainty about whether civilization will exist in the current form a year from now, let alone the idea that holding onto a dollar bill for a year makes sense. If I don’t quite completely trust a dollar bill to hold its purchasing power for more than few months, it’s hard for me to be any more confident about anything other than the vague idea that having more money might turn out to be better than having less money. If nothing else, if the money is paper money, paper is a good insulator and makes good kindling. Just keep it dry and it can help keep you warm.

But, regardless: Clearly, everybody is going to get old, plenty of us will need help in our later years, and thinking about LTCI products and other LTC financing options is certainly a great idea. Adam Smith could support that idea. Benjamin Franklin would certainly support that idea. Maybe Karl Marx would support that idea, even if he might have a somewhat (OK, very) different take than Smith or Franklin about how LTC financing ought to work.

I don’t know how well the bus will do at competing for tourists’ attention against the street performers in Big Bird costumes and the angry street preachers, but maybe having an entire bus worth’s of promotional signage space will give the bus the oomph it needs to get its voice heard and communicate the idea that 77% of Americans need to know more about LTCI than they currently do.

The 3in4 Association has been posting videos of Dr. Marion’s bus adventure on YouTube, at http://www.youtube.com/user/3in4needmore. The latest 3in4 video, posted June 16, shows Dr. Marion visiting (surprise) an LTC facility operated by a company that’s helping to sponsor the tour.

I think the video is a little scary, from a managing-the-media-cycle point of view, because it shows an actual brand-name facility. The universal law of places that serve the public is that some member of the public (or a sneaky competitor) is probably out on Yelp posting angry comments about the place. 

But 3in4 also shows Dr. Marion talking to a man serving in the Air Force who talks about how his mother is paying for care at the facility with a combination of money from a pension and money from an LTCI policy.

It seems as if there’s no more powerful marketer of LTCI than a policyholder, or relative of a policyholder, who’s successfully using an LTCI policy to pay for care.

The world is big, and all kinds of things can happen in it, but at least things worked out well for that policyholder, and that’s something. The financial advisor who placed the policy can take pride in how things worked out. The insurer that wrote the coverage can be a little irked that a customer went on claim but take pride in helping to give a service member peace of mind. And consumers can see what an LTCI policy can do for a family.