A view of Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

Low interest rates continue to sap insurers’ ability to support their long-term care insurance (LTCI) units.

But hundreds of LTCI agents, brokers, wholesalers and planners converged in Kansas City, Mo., this week in an effort to learn how to make the most of the sales opportunities that exist now and prepare for a rebound.

The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI) also tried to reach out to producers and consultants who are just starting to think about the LTCI market, by streaming some conference sessions live on the Web through Ustream.

LIMRA announced during the conference that annualized premium revenue from new sales of individual LTCI fell 32 percent between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, to $74 million.

But LIMRA also reported that the number of products that combine long-term care (LTC) benefits with life insurance or annuity contracts sold in 2013 was 17 percent higher than in 2012, and that insurers have already sold about 98,000 combo products this year.

And LIMRA found that five of the 15 carriers that participated in the stand-alone LTCI survey reported increasing LTCI sales 10 percent or more in 2013.

One carrier, Thrivent Financial, which announced a distribution deal with Newman Long Term Care at the conference, said it now wants to sell through independent producers as well as through its own network of representatives.

AALTCI Executive Director Jesse Slome gave a presentation on the importance of the Internet and social media.

He noted, for example, that 20 percent of the participants in a LinkedIn LTCI forum he runs have no photos on their LinkedIn profiles, and that some have profiles that are too casual.

“This is your storefront,” Slome said. “You need to look professional.”

Shawn Britt, an LTC initiatives director at Nationwide Financial, talked at one session about the finer points of LTC planning tool selection — and the difficult reality of coming face-to-face with denial in her own family.

“I could not get my father to get long-term care insurance for him and mom,” Britt recalled.

Her father said that everyone in his family went to the hospital for two days, then died.

“When you’re married to somebody for 60 years, you forget they’re not in your bloodline,” Britt said.

She said her father did die after two days in the hospital, but that she and her siblings had to pay for four years of dementia care for her mother.

Even if a consumer says a spouse or other relative will provide care, LTC planners have to encourage the consumer to make arrangements to have paid workers come in to help with heavy lifting, Britt said.

Wives can shop for homebound husbands and run errands for homebound husbands, but they cannot easily lift 195-pound husbands out of the bath tub, Britt said.

Steve Schoonveld, an actuary at Lincoln Financial Group, said during another session that survey data suggest that use of formal LTC services may be much less common in the future, because of the effects of divorce on the likelihood that consumers will have spouses willing and able to care for them at home in old age.

“The ability to age in place will definitely decline,” Schoonveld said.

Schoonveld also marveled at figures showing that 56 percent of consumers say that planning for LTC costs is important, but that few spending anything on LTC planning, and that most spending far more cable bills and cell phone bills than on retirement planning.

“This is your competition for attention to the long-term care risk,” Schoonveld said. “We simply aren’t on the radar screen.”

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