We’re having spring cleaning in the Summit Business Media offices, and we’re supposed to be throwing what we don’t really need into cardboard boxes.

Of course, the most intense pressure is to throw out the market studies, compliance manuals, directories and almanacs I scavenged from the rubbish piles of departing employees back in the 1990s.

Observers wonder why anyone would need a guide to the state of the life insurance market in 1980.

Of course, in reality, anyone with a passing interest in long-term care insurance (LTCI) or any othe topic will see that the most important documents to save are the documents that give off the most dust.

Finding out what’s happened in insurance since about 1996 is as easy as using the LifeHealthPro.com search tool.

Finding out what went on takes some work. One way is to go into Google Books and try to wheedle one’s way past the barriers created by copyright lawyers (who are, to be fair, trying to protect my ability to earn a paycheck) to see snippets of books and articles published in the distant past.

Ad from 1918

Another way is to go through the books in my library, and another is to page through the bound volumes of one of the print publications that helps feed LifeHealthPro.com, National Underwriter Life & Health.

It looks as if, really, most of our early coverage of long-term care was about home health care, rather than nursing home care.

In one November 1983 article, for example, we quoted analysts at Frost & Sullivan predicting that home health care sales would triple by 1990. 

It’s tempting to look through old National Underwriter articles for example of what everyone got wildly wrong, but, really, what’s interesting is that the analysts we quoted mostly got the big ideas wrong. 

Frost & Sullivan noted, quite accurately, the home health care demand would grow because the elderly population was both fast-growing and leery of institutionalization.

Some of the old ads are particularly interesting. In one published in 1918, created by the International Insurance Company of St. Louis, the ad designer used what then must have been a high-tech image — of a stick-figure character in a cartoon film strip — doing business with the insurer and building up a bigger and bigger pile of cash.

One of the lessons is that many of the controversies we cover today have been controversial since at least 1897, but that some that once seemed intractable have been resolved so well that simply understanding the nature of the controversies is difficult.

We’ve overcome the problems with tontine life insurance policies. Maybe we can muddle through and overcome the challenges that make for depressing headlines today. 

See also: