“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,”. I am sure Mark Twain wasn’t thinking about Long-Term Care or today’s news media when he said this long ago. Today it is very easy to place a news story for people to consume. Between traditional TV and radio, an expanded 24/7 news cycle with cable news there is a lot of information available. The biggest difference today, like the old days when anyone with a printing press could print anything they like, now you just need a computer to create a news story. It seems almost everyone has a computer or smart phone and they are not afraid to use it.
The topic of Long-Term Care has become a big one with an aging America. By 2030, 1 in 4 Americans will be over the age of 50. By 2050, 1 of every 5 Americans will be 65+ according to data from data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It seems like once you get around the age of 50 the conversation about Long-Term Care starts coming up. In today’s world that means you hit the internet and see what information you can find. However, some articles are providing misleading or even completely erroneous information on Long-Term Care Insurance.
We have heard the term fake news, but perhaps the best way to define what is being written about Long-Term Care is just “lazy news” or “advocacy news”. It seems like everyone with a computer, including myself, has an agenda. How much of this is “truth” is a matter to discuss.
Generally, there is more to a story… and the stuff left out is usually very important. The stories about Long-Term Care insurance premium rate increases are very misleading. They usually leave out many details. The reporters or “professionals” writing these articles often have an agenda to push the public in one direction or another.
The other thing to remember is the internet is also “old news” as nothing on the internet usually gets deleted. You may find and read something that is old but that story may have been updated numerous times since the first story was published making the information you are reading outdated. You must do more due diligence today to see if you are getting accurate information.
Since the issue of planning for the financial costs and burdens of aging is so important to American families you should know the facts. Often the reason the articles talk about premium increases is to scare the consumer. Maybe the writer wants the government to pay for all long-term care (not going to happen as too many people require care and budgets are tight as it is trying to take care of those with little or no savings). Perhaps the writer wants to have the consumer spend large sums of money of certain type of financial product they are selling. The consumer should understand the truth, so they can plan in advance with more peace-of-mind.
These increases that are being reported are primarily on “legacy products” These are older plans that were priced well before the interest rate crash and rate stabilization regulations.
Today, all plans are priced with the very low interest rate environment in mind (interest rates have been low in the United States over the last decade). These older plans which had increases were based on a few factors:
· Interest rates
· Lapse rates (meaning, how many people drop their policies. In practice, very few do, but this was not factored into premium pricing on many older plans)
· Claims and underwriting experience
These policies are paying huge benefits as well. In 2017 over $9.2 billion was paid in benefits to American families protecting assets and easing family burden.
The fact is these older policies were underpriced to start with and even with increases they still have outstanding value and huge benefits. Nobody likes an increase, but you must put that increase in perspective. Many of these people I speak with have huge benefits which have been increasing 5% compounded every year since they had the policy. Many have unlimited lifetime benefits as well. Since they have these huge benefits many can reduce the benefit or inflation factor to keep the premium the same. As their benefits increase far greater compared to the cost of long-term care they remain in an outstanding position.
Today’s Long-Term Care insurance policies remain very affordable as people start purchasing plans prior to retirement. Underwriting is more conservative but since consumers are younger most people can still find an appropriate plan.
Experts say that the risks of increases are small but like anything there is always a chance of an approved increase. However, if you read some of the articles being published you would think the industry is dead and consumers no longer have any interest in the product.
The fact is there are still numerous insurance companies marketing Long-Term Care insurance. Consumer interest has never been greater. As I speak to other Long-Term Care Insurance specialists, like myself, we have all noticed a big increase in both consumer awareness and interest. Consumers are younger, more knowledgeable with the risks (often with first-hand experience with an elder parent or other family member) and we are bombarded with requests for information and quotes.
Consumers are seeking help from Long-Term Care specialists as most financial advisors and general insurance agents have limited knowledge and experience with the products, underwriting, policy design, benefit options and the federal/state partnership program which is available in most states. Therefore, some of these professionals push consumers into options they are more comfortable with despite the fact they might not be the best and most affordable way to address the costs and burdens of aging.
Long-Term Care Insurance, despite what you read, is very affordable for most people. With regulation and better pricing consumers enjoy additional peace-of-mind knowing they have a plan they can count on in the decades to come that will remain affordable once they retire and get older.