Your next LTCI sales idea: "Who rides the bus? People like us!"

By Stephen D. Forman (LTCA)

Long Term Care Associates, Inc.


The old sales model was built around "asset protection," but that's not particularly convincing. After all, both a car and a bus will get you where you want to go. Instead, forward-looking sales models must emphasize the care experience. Make sure you have a good one!

When I was young, the city of Seattle tried to encourage ridership on their public transportation system. One tool in their toolbox was a catchy slogan designed to de-calcify the elitism attached to middle-class suburbanites: "Who rides the bus? People like us!"

Memorable indeed -- I still chuckle when I think about it. As I recall, the campaign flopped terribly, the ready-made butt of punchlines already on the tip-of-the-tongue.

Americans love their cars. That's all you really need to know.

A mere decade after World War II ended, with the country booming from the auspicious combination of manpower and repurposed factory infrastructure, Eisenhower launched the largest public works project in our history: the pavement of 44,000 miles of interstate highway. We were smack-dab in the middle of the baby boom, and suburban sprawl had begun.

The history lesson is free, but there is a point. For 60 years, baby boomers have grown up accustomed to owning their own cars, whether they are reasonably-priced Kia Sonatas, sensible Honda Accords, elegant Jaguar XJS's or aggressively sporty Dodge Vipers.

Likewise, we choose where to drive. Should we do all of our errands on one day, or spread them out? Is it better to carpool with a friend and use the HOV lane? Maybe we'll take a day trip out to the coast or up to the mountains? Would we like to leave early and avoid the traffic, or perhaps sleep in and leave late? It really doesn't matter, because cars give us freedom.

Contrast this with public transportation. The price may be right, but you get one route: theirs. You hop on and disembark at pre-determined stops. Your life revolves around the public schedule: don't be late, or you'll miss the bus! Where before you could roll down the windows of your car and sing along to your favorite CD, here you sit next to strangers. Her perfume might be too strong. His music might be too loud. Who sat here before you... do you feel clean here? That person keeping to himself doesn't seem "all there"... is he looking at you funny? What if he tries to hurt someone?

At the end of the day, even if gas costs $5.00/gallon, this doesn't seem like much fun.

As you've probably guessed, today's sales idea isn't about cars and buses. It's about private LTC insurance vs. public LTC insurance. The vast majority of Americans make no explicit plans for their future extended care needs. They don't know how they'll pay for care -- they just know that "someone" pays. They're correct: the government bails them out through Medicaid (mostly), Social Security (which they are obliged to contribute to Medicaid), and Medicare (which generously offsets the low reimbursements of the former).
But what if there were a better way? Why in its twilight years would a NASCAR nation in love with its cars willingly surrender the keys to ride the bus? It wouldn't, and your baby boomer prospects wouldn't. They just never thought of it this way, and you need to point it out.

The old sales model was built around asset protection, but that's not particularly convincing. After all, both a car and a bus will get you where you want to go. Instead, forward-looking sales models must emphasize the care experience. Make sure you have a good one!

Your clients have a choice to make between two "qualitatively" different modes of transportation ... er, insurance. They can choose private LTCI today, or they will be stuck with public LTCI tomorrow.

If private, it will be a car of their design, allowing them to choose the highest quality care in the most appropriate setting of their choice. If public, their care will be subject to a system that is $100,000,000,000,000 in the red, and feverishly, furiously, looking for ways to cut corners, including eligibility restrictions, provider payment reductions, and service cuts.

One of the last things your parents or grandparents ever want to give up is the keys to their car. Surprisingly, when it comes to LTCI, nine out of 10 clamor for "the bus."