I’ve been paging through scans of old insurance publications, NFL Super Bowl sponsor lists, and my own email lately, and it scares me to see how quiet issuers of life, health and long-term care insurance are these days.

When they still want to sell any products at all, they say enough to keep up appearances, and that’s about it.

They aren’t going out of their way to promote awareness of long-term care (LTC) planning, or any other type of planning, because it seems as if about the only things they really have the confidence to sell are administrative services they can deliver this year. Or, products exempt from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) set up in such a way that they can take in premium cash this year and pay cash out for benefits this year, without worrying much about general account portfolio yields.

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Those products and services might be fine products and services, but, in the past, the big insurers typically left them to niche players.

Today, niche products and services seem to be all that’s prudent to actively try to sell.

The managers of the kinds of insurers that sell life and health products, including stand-alone LTCI and LTC hybrid products, seem to be the sorts of people who compete hard and hate red tape, but, really, just want what’s best for everybody. Their attitude seems to be that, if the government can really figure out how to pay for decent long-term care for everyone, God bless it. 

And, of course, the insurers have to do what they can to keep the rating agencies, the policyholders, lenders, regulators, and agents, brokers and consultants calm. Earnings at most of the insurers are okay. Ratings at most of the companies are okay. Why rock boats?

But regulators in Basel, in Washington and in state capitals have worked so hard at making products so nice and fair for the insureds, and investment rules so risk-conscious, and interest rates so low for the borrowers, that all the insurers really dare to do is hold on tight and hope for better days.

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The problems at the stand-alone LTCI issuers and the PPACA-affected health insurers are early symptoms of the effects of the gaps between what policymakers have promised and what’s possible.

In the current presidential debates, even the Republican candidates have a tendency to use the insurance companies as punching bags. One might think Democrats’ experience as CO-OP managers and supervisors might have made them more sympathetic to the challenges facing traditional insurance company managers, but that appears not to be the case.

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The real enemy — that no candidate has dared to mention since Paul Ryan tried to shore up Medicare — is that it’s hard to tell voters that much of what they want (and is good, fair, and, seemingly, reasonable) is probably impossible. 

See also:

Wall Street turmoil to bend, not break, economic expansion

Warren chides insurers on resort perks in push for broker rule

 

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