As a 36-year veteran of our industry, I have seen a lot of mistakes made. Some are harmless; some have significant impact on your clients' ability to meet future needs. The latter are mistakes that will come back to haunt you. In particular, there is one mistake that long term care insurance agents make that will have a disastrous effect on their clients and their clients' children.
Let's assume that you knew of an impending disaster before it happened. What would you do to protect yourself and your family? Would you stop at the first solution if you saw that it wasn't working? Would you seek out the advice and consent of other professionals in the field to see what other tools might be available to assist you in your endeavors? Or would you simply throw up your hands when Plan A didn't work and walk away from the situation?
Unfortunately, that's what many long term care insurance agents do. If their product or proposal is not implemented, they simply walk away from the client, even though they are fully aware that in all likelihood, their client is going to encounter a long-term health insurance situation for themselves or their spouses down the road. They are aware that Plan B is available, but because they have been taught that any type of planning in order to become eligible for government benefits (i.e., Medicaid) is wrong, they simply leave their clients hanging out to dry, and totally exposed to the risks they were originally trying to protect.
What should long term care insurance agents do? They should educate themselves about other benefits that may be available to their uninsurable or non-responsive clients. After all, these clients were trying to do something about an impending disaster. They were trying to protect themselves and their families against the probability that they will need long-term health care. They had sought out the advice of someone who was knowledgeable in the area, and now, since they couldn't qualify for what you are trying to sell, they get released back out in the wild.
Long term care insurance agents should take the time to study how their particular states allow individuals and couples to qualify for benefits. They should understand the special rules that are in place to protect the non-institutionalized spouse from becoming impoverished. They should be able to relate to the client what is going to happen to the income of the surviving spouse and the importance of proper planning to protect that spouse when incomes are significantly reduced due to the loss of one of the Social Security checks and perhaps all or a portion of a pension. They should be able to relate to the client details about the rules are for preserving a home and car for their use, as well as ample assets from which to draw for emergencies. At the very least, they should become familiar with experts in their area who can assist these clients in the event they are unable to provide the proper guidance.
Failure to understand and share these principles, or recognize that there are others who can help, is the biggest mistake most long term care insurance agents make. Is it pride? Is it ego? Is it ignorance? Whatever it is, it is the client and their family who ultimately pays. Step out of the box, consider what you would want done for your own family, and learn how to help those clients who cannot or will not opt for long term care insurance. Building relationships with families whom you have assisted and advised on how to pay for long-term healthcare costs, regardless of whether through long term care insurance or public assistance, will lead to a stronger referral base, a broader spectrum of customers, and a reputation as someone who solves problems, not just sells products.
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