Glenn Neasham: Why the cavalry may not be coming

By Stephen D. Forman (LTCA)

Long Term Care Associates, Inc.

Like you, I've been following both the story and the comments regarding Glenn Neasham, and I feel for the gentleman and his family. I don't know what the future holds for Glenn, but when I hear the clarion calls for justice on this site, "Let's rally the annuity producer community to appeal his conviction!" or "If we put half as much energy into lobbying, we can overturn California's egregious elder abuse law!", my concern for Mr. Neasham devolves into cynicism and grief.

Should I not be optimistic that our fellow producers wish to band together and help Glenn Neasham? At first blush, you'd think so. But my experience in this industry leads me to believe the cavalry may not be coming.

1) I don't market health insurance — never have. But I support my peers in that line, and when a colleague educated me about provisions in the Affordable Care Act that would prevent health agents from becoming “navigators" within the exchanges (a potential career-killer), I was only too happy to sign the pledge at America Needs Agents, and catapult the information there.

I included it in my field newsletters, I tweeted it to my followers, I spoke to the need in multiple comments here on ProducersWEB (urging my fellow life and annuity agents to support our colleagues in health), and shared the same info on a few occasions. How many of you turned up in support of America Needs Agents?

According to the site, just over 1,100 have signed the pledge out of 228,000 health agents (to say nothing of unrelated lines). You see, it's easy to talk a good game from behind your computers.

2) In New York, while Regulation 194 was being fought, and nearing implementation (on March 8, 2012 a 5-judge panel declined to overturn it), did anyone outside of New York and the Independents Insurance Agents and Brokers of NY follow the case? Did anyone protest?

A regulation like this (a mandatory two-step consumer disclosure of all of the producer's compensation) has a way of spreading. Some may care, some may not — most should be interested, particularly when they learn the overzealous way in which this regulation was spawned over 8 years ago.

It's easy to mind your own backyard and easy to ignore the wide landscape beyond, but things have a way of falling like dominoes once a state tips. Even if you are only a single-state or regional producer, you'd be wise to follow our industry on a national basis.

3) Closest to my heart is Penn Treaty. As many of you know, I've written about the importance of this company to the very survival of the long term care insurance industry. What you may not know is how closely intertwined I've been with its rehabilitation.

Without going into unnecessary detail or digression, let me jump right in and tell you why this case matters to you. Back in 2009, one of the very first actions the Pennsylvania Insurance Department took was to interrupt the agent agreements between the producers and the insurer, and unilaterally choose which provisions to enforce and which to void.
Specifically, then-Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario (now Director of the Office of Insurance Exchanges for DHHS for the Obama administration) moved to immediately suspend all agent commissions and renewals. A group of us — some of the largest FMO's from Penn Treaty's past — began reaching out in an effort to form a collective to raise the money to fight. Although our names are public record, I'd rather do my colleagues the favor of protecting their anonymity in this forum. What matters more is not who helped, but who didn't.

From the perspective of where Glenn Neasham sits, I can tell you that we reached out to the NAIFAs, the NAHUs, the NAILBAs, the AALTCIs, the trade magazines and everyone passed. Many large FMOs passed. It was literally a dialing for dollars effort, beginning with a core group, reaching out to wider and wider circles of personal colleagues, and then vertically downwards to each agencies' own distribution.

Out of 20,000 possible appointed agents, we assembled less than 50. Everyone was sympathetic and widely curious in the outcome, but few would lend a real, helping hand. I suspect no one wanted to be tainted by the name Penn Treaty Network America. The stakes were, and remain, enormous: if and when this issue is decided, it will be precedent-setting not just for LTCI, but for the insurance industry.

Having been at the epicenter of these hearings for over two years, I can attest that there are precious few cases within the past 100 years to go on. This will be one of the most recent, and most pertinent.

If it's decided that an insurance department has this authority — to void your contract and immediately terminate your commissions — the damage will be permanent. We knew this back in 2009, yet most FMOs were only too happy to let others carry the water. They knew that whether they contributed money or manpower to the fight, they'd benefit either way.

Finally, in my role as secretary of this collective, I've had the names and email addresses of a powerful group of agents and agencies for over two years, but I've never once used the list for anything other than communicating trial news. Heaven help me if I ever tried to recruit from it.

Yet one of our brothers here on ProducersWEB has chosen to rally the troops by assembling a group of like-minded agents and pass the hat around. Good on him. If he'd left it at that, I'd say that was terrific.

But, not content that agents would do something charitable of their own high morals, this producer felt obliged to return a token (like an NPR tote bag), and his choice may be off-putting to some. I'll leave this one up to you: what do you make of this? Is he simply doing something nice by sending out his own marketing CD (a $99 value to the first 100 — wait — the first 1,000 contributors), or should he have acted simply as secretary/treasurer of the appeal fund?

So there you have it, Glenn. You've received many, many words of support from your friends and colleagues here on ProducersWEB. They are not without merit, nor should you discount them or forget them. However, they may be the most you can wish for. As for the cavalry itself? It may not be coming.

All my best.