Broker Words—July 2022

There is a series of commercials on TV these days (from a cable service that I despise due to their termination/billing practices) where the spots show two unrelated programs that magically merge into a single action sequence as a result of the customer flipping rapidly back and forth between the two. Serena Williams…Wonder Woman…Serena…Wonder Woman…then cut to a mall scene where, in my view, the greatest women’s tennis player ever appears in a Wonder Woman costume and destroys malicious tennis ball shooting robots by returning serve. The appeal is heightened for me no doubt by the scene of the most-famous-for-whining men’s tennis player ever, John McEnroe, having one of the robots’ shots spill his drink on him. There’s also a Serena/Matrix one and a baseball/Ghostbusters spot.

Flo and her cohorts are mildly amusing in their “bundles” commercials, and I like the creativity of the Gecko ad developers, although I suspect that the appeal is subtly greatly enhanced by the bipedal lizard’s British accent. My four-decades-long patronage of my local State Farm guy would suggest, with apologies to Barbara Mandrell, I was bundling…when bundling wasn’t coooool.
I’m not sure, etymologically speaking, where bundling, multitasking, dual-purpose, combo, and other terms of their ilk are all linked, but I suspect my Spirograph would need to work overtime to produce an accurate Venn diagram. I do know that there are a plethora of word bundles that are oxymoronic: Postal service, government organization, temporary tax increase, jumbo shrimp and undeniably the most egregious—veggie burger. But that’s old news. And don’t even get me started on pineapple on a pizza…

Whether by fortuitous happenstance, or a blatantly obvious intent to manipulate, the July issue of Broker World has for 24 years been promoted as our Life Insurance issue and yet has dedicated a large percentage of the editorial copy to our annual Milliman Long Term Care Insurance Survey. Hmmmmm.

I proselytize frequently about what I believe are under-presented solutions designed to alleviate some of the stress and misery of potential insurance product consumers, long term care protection a frequent soapbox. That said, I don’t have my head in the sand about aspects of the stand-alone LTCI product that plague carriers, agents and existing policyholders alike. LTCI lapse ratios were tragically over-estimated initially and forced greatly unpalatable rate increases for consumers. While “use it or lose it” may resonate negatively for prospects, “pay for it for decades and then just abandon it’’ largely wasn’t a justifiable action for existing policy holders. Further rate increase scenarios, although much improved, are still a specter as accurately pricing for morbidity is an ever-moving target and increased longevity, while most times a boon to life insurers, has been a great challenge for LTCI insurers—COVID government nursing home malfeasance notwithstanding. Add to the pricing Catch-22 the often stricter underwriting and longer issue times, and the risk of a decline, and it’s defensible that agents might not want to endanger existing client goodwill, leaving that privilege to another agent. An unfortunate reality is that many consumers ultimately pull their heads out of the sand only to discover it’s already too late to obtain traditional LTCI coverage.

But the fact remains undeniably clear that the long term care exposure risk to American consumers as a whole is vast, and government program funded solutions are greatly unpalatable for all but the most desperate. And as Boomers inevitably age into the system, long term care staffing concerns and attendant cost of care projections are increasingly dire.

Inside, authors shed some light on solutions to the looming long term care crisis, but the whole point of this bundling, perhaps bungling, dissertation is that there are a great array of life insurance (and annuity) products now available with attendant long term care solutions. Linked-benefit, asset-based, hybrid, combo, or maybe “bundled”…our industry has come up with a plethora of palatable life/long term care solutions and many previously reluctant brokers are now able to set aside stand-alone LTCI concerns and actively engage their greatly valued clients in much needed long term care planning…in my unbiased opinion.[SPH]