If you sell long-term care insurance (LTCI) or other “non-medical health products,” you are much more than a seller of “ancillary products.”
You are someone with the ability to think about the bad things that can happen and the creativity to identify insurance products that might be able to protect consumers against those risks.
Most people assume that a vacation to the Bahamas will go great. You’re the person who knows that having a little insurance might be a good idea, just in case things don’t go great.
Most people assume that the Ebola fuss will blow over quickly, as just about all of the other crises we will worry about do. You know that, sometimes, the crises do hit, and hit hard, and cause a great deal of soul-searching by the carrier actuaries and underwriters.
And, today, one of the interesting things about the Ebola crisis is that it’s not what it means for major medical plans. On Oct. 16, for example, Josh Ernest, the White House press secretary, took a question at a press briefing about just who was paying to fly a nurse infected with Ebola to a hospital in Atlanta for treatment. Ernest had no idea whether the patient’s health insurance was paying for her extraordinary care, the federal government was paying or if any entity was paying the bill.
“All I know is that she is currently being treated at a federal facility,” Ernest said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “In terms of what the consequences are for her medical bills or for insurance coverage, I am not aware of what sort of financial arrangements are in place to cover the costs of the treatment.”
Friends of a freelance journalist who contracted Ebola while covering the epidemic originally announced plans to raise $500,000 to pay his medical bills and other expenses. When they found out his employer was paying his medical bills, they cut their fundraising goal and said they would use the money raised to cover the kinds of expenses that the major medical plans governed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) don’t cover: All of the bills other than medical bills that people who have suffered health care catastrophes often face.
Regulators may not look kindly on marketing materials that emphasize Ebola benefits, and it’s not clear how all policy provisions would work in a severe epidemic of a deadly disease. Most insurers were thinking of an outbreak like the 1968 Hong Kong flu epidemic when they wrote their policy contracts, not the Black Death.
But here’s a look at some of the products insurance professionals could talk about once we get past the Ebola outbreak and consumers who want ideas about how to protect themselves against bad bouts of infectious disease in the future.
1. A 24-hour nurse line.
One easy step an insurance professional can take is to make sure a client — any client, for any product — has access to a good nurse line through a major medical plan.
People who are suffering strange symptoms and call a nurse line operated by real, experienced nurses who can answer questions from their own knowledge, not simply read from a database, may have a better chance of knowing when “flu-like symptoms” are very likely ordinary symptoms of mild flu, and when the symptoms are signs of a condition — such as a severe case of the flu — that need medical attention.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been operating its own version of a nurse line for people who may have been exposed to patients with Ebola.
Consider signing up for several stand-alone nurse line services yourself — ideally, nurse line services that pay agents referral fees — and see which ones work best when you yourself have questions.
Recommend the most helpful nurse lines to clients.
2. An employee assistance plan (EAP).
What if there was a real chance that your client had Ebola or even a severe case of the flu?