“Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They
always run out of other people’s money.”― Margaret Thatcher
OK, so what’s the over-reaching segue between Socialism and a Life Insurance issue that includes the 2019 Milliman Long Term Care Insurance Survey? Quite simply this: There are still too many Americans who believe the Government will simply step in and pay for facility care when the need arises—ignorant or perhaps delusional about both the personal cost and the societal drain. Spend downs are either inconsequential, or a vague nebulous threat, or perhaps completely unknown. For some I poignantly imagine Government paid facility care might not represent a great departure from, and perhaps even an improvement on, their current living conditions. The sad fact is that our industry can’t help them. And God Bless the truly caring service professionals that labor in those facilities daily, overworked and underpaid.
But we, as cognizant representatives of the insurance industry, wouldn’t wish this type of late life treatment for our loved ones, or clients, or hopefully anyone who might still be saved. And yet many Americans on the left (and unbelievably at least one or perhaps more wolves in sheep’s clothing—or hemp or some other plant-based, non-animal-exploiting fabric—lurking on the fringes of our industry in the guise of service) think the Government should provide Golden Care for all golden-agers—at taxpayer’s expense of course. And by taxpayer’s expense I mean a new system of industry and economy crippling taxes on corporations and the wealthy. (After all, they can afford it.) Government largesse isn’t the panacea for long term care, any more than the tragically flawed Obamacare program was the divine solution to the Nation’s healthcare crisis. With the Baby Boomer glut poised to crash upon the nation’s caregiving systems (projected by many to be facing a critical shortage of caregivers in the not-to-distant future—thereby increasing costs), the cost of government care for all should be clearly recognized by all but the most diligently ignorant to be too astronomical for even criminally insane taxes on the rich to subsidize for long. All thoughts of crippling economic prosperity aside, there simply won’t be enough of other people’s money.
Another significant societal trait needs mention here as well. Nursing home horror stories aside, I believe most Americans wish to remain in their homes for as long as humanly possible, and that the adult children of the increasingly dependent wish the comfort of home—the adult dependent’s or even their own—for their aging parents. And this brings us to another demographic under tremendous stress—the unpaid family member caregiver.
Per LIMRA, a worldwide research, consulting and professional development organization and the trusted source of industry knowledge since 1916: “According to LIMRA research, there are 43 million Americans currently acting as an unpaid caregiver for a family member. Advances in medicine and better lifestyle choices have helped more Americans live longer but many of these older Americans often need caregiving help–and oftentimes it falls on the family to provide it.”
In an attempt to quantify the sacrifice assumed by caregiving for a family member, LIMRA research asserted that “Aside from the out-of-pocket costs associated with caring for a loved one, which AARP estimates is almost $7000 annually*, there is often a cost in terms of lost opportunity for those who work outside the home.”
The findings suggest that, “Half of unpaid caregivers work full-time outside the home. For many of these individuals, the demands of taking care of a loved one has impacted their career. The study found four in 10 had to take an unpaid leave of absence or decrease the number of hours they worked because of the demands of caring for a family member. Three in ten say they have turned down a promotion and a quarter say they have lost job benefits, such as medical, retirement, insurance, etc. because they had to cut back their hours due to their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, a significant percentage indicated they ultimately had to stop working—22 percent voluntarily quit, 18 percent had their employment terminated, and 13 percent retired early.”
The release concluded that, “With more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, the number of families facing the financial challenges associated with providing care to an older family member is certain to grow in the next several years.” (For more information about LIMRA research visit www.limra.com.)
The insurance industry is the only body capably constructed to mitigate both the quality facility care and family caregiver crises. Stand-alone LTCI has numerous options available to maintain private-payor facility status, provide qualified in-home care providers, and even compensate family caregivers. Asset-based life and annuity long term care solutions are readily available and increasing in both quantity and quality at a gratifying rate. But insurance professionals of all disciplines must commit to prospecting, proposing, taking applications and protecting families across most of the economic spectrum. The private-sector solution—our industry—is the only workable solution and we need to feel duty-bound.
The Government could, however, provide immense help with these solutions—through drastically increased and improved messaging about the looming crisis and the options our industry offers, combined with more varied and aggressive tax incentives for those who adopt private-sector protection. But that help seems to be our right-wing Brigadoon, at least at present, for two main reasons: First, because it makes good sense and would save the Government trillions in future costs; and second, because it would represent a ceding of Government power, discomforting to the majority of our legislators and bringing cataclysmic, apoplectic despair to the lunatic fringe on the left.[SPH]