Thursday, June 11, 2009

Will The "Kennedy Legacy" Kill The Long-Term Care Insurance Industry

Will the (Ted) Kennedy Legacy - a healthcare plan that includes provisions for a government-offered long-term care insurance provision - kill the private long-term care insurance industry?

The stort answer is, yes it indeed could. After all, what a sweet proposal - pay $65 a month ($780 a year) for five years ($3,900) and you've got long-term care coverage. And, you don't even need to health qualify. Everyone qualifies.

If you don't think there's already interest, just do a Google search for "Kennedy long term care". As a long-time and highly successful public relations guys, I know how I would spin this story to the media and thus to consumers. "We can do this because of mass numbers, and because we are cutting out those pesky middlemen - the long-term care insurers and the commissions paid to agents which can be as much as ..." (I won't go on ... why make life easy for them ... though they have bright minds working on this).

Best of all, this is the perfect time to make something like this happen. Insurers are happy to be surviving (who isn't these days) ... and agents aren't organized. The Washington D.C.-based insurance lobbying groups have to contend with health insurance and you really don't want to offend Ted Kennedy or others when the stakes (health insurance) are so huge.

Is the Kennedy "plan" attackable. Of course it is. And, at so many levels ... and that's before even talking to the real bright minds. From what I understand, no actuaries have even been called in to assess the real price.

But, perhaps most important, the time to seize the opportunity to respond is short. Those advocating an alternative plan are organized. They have egos and if they see this is generating good press ... they'll make every effort to secure more.

I hesitated a while before writing this blog. The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance does not lobby and personally I have no intentions to walk the halls of the Capital.

But I am truly concerned. And, I believe others with a vested interest in both protecting Americans and not saddling taxpayers with another entitlement that isn't properly priced and will ultimately balloon beyond any reasonable expectation should be concerned as well.

I have already seen a dozen online reports about the Kennedy bill (I'm sure it's also appeared in print editions). They all focus on the $65-a-month figure. As the publicity grows (and it will), why would any sane consumer buy something that costs more? They'll wait until they see what the government ends up doing.

Publicity builds momentum. Trust me, I introduced the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls ... and it wan't my brilliant work or that of the publicists who worked with me ... we just keep feeding a little fuel to the momentum. Before you know it, we had a national phenomenon and the cover of Time magazine.

What's my answer? I'm not really sure. I am reaching out to those I consider leaders in the industry. My personal commitment to members of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance is to do the best I can to serve the members, the industry. But on a personal note, my goal isn't to be self-serving. I want to do what's right for our country's future ... and the lives of my five children who will be paying the bill for Senator Kennedy's legacy.

Lots of what happens in Washington never gets traction and so it's been easy to ignore. This one shouldn't be categorized as such.

I'll keep you posted and be interested in feedback and your thoughts. Send to my E-mail (click here).

Jesse Slome

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