Broker Words—June 2020

I have an addiction to what I deem amusing/sarcastic/witty/douchey T-shirts. There are many great online pushers, many of whom offer special COVID-19 inventory. To date my Tourettes-like optimism has allowed me to resist the straight “2020 Sucks” offering, although in my sporadic embrace of full disclosure I must confess to buying the shirt that had the zeros in 2020 represented by TP rolls accompanied by “THE YEAR SH*T GOT REAL!” (unasterisked, of course). It’s purchase triggered one of the rare times thus far when my wonderful, lovely wife Hope nearly burst with gratitude at the “Shelter at Home” order. If patience for her marital Albatross granted Sainthood, her aura would be blinding and her halo the size of Churchill Downs.

Thankfully neither of us is aware of having less than two points of separation between a known Coronavirus fatality at present, despite numerous cherished friends, family members and colleagues in high risk groups. My heart goes out to those families who’ve had to sit in their cars in hospital parking lots or sobbed at home while their loved ones died desperately alone in overworked hospitals or too slowly protected senior care facilities. My personal opinion is that Governors or other officials who mandated that COVID-positive patients be returned to nursing homes should be expeditiously tried and convicted of negligent homicide and, barring that, at the least should be perpetually widely vilified in the media as the mass murderers they truly are. At present only one television network even voices their culpability.

Hope and I were in one of our favorite cities, New Orleans, in mid-March for The Marketing Alliance’s meeting and enjoying our first reconnect of the year with many dear carrier and BGA friends. Our, and many attendees’, awareness and fear of the severity of the pandemic was severely stunted—NOLA had no publicized confirmed cases despite the Mardi Gras festivities of the prior week. There were no masks. No social distancing.Thankfully I’ve been told by the TMA staff that none of the attendees of that meeting have reported becoming infected. But on the opening night of what would be collectively our last meeting of the Spring (at least), I got news that my 83-year-old mother had fallen and broken her hip. We repacked our bags, said our premature goodbyes, and headed home to Kansas to substitute clothing (there’s juuuuust a bit of difference between the temperature in NOLA versus Oregon in mid-March) intending to depart for Ashland to comfort and aid Mom the next day. Amazing how just 24 hours can change things.

Shortly after our arrival home the breadth and speed of the spread and the perception of the seriousness of the viral threat increased dramatically, news coverage increased exponentially, and many states, including Oregon, banned visitors to hospitals and elder care facilities. There was no visiting Mom. Daily calls were all we had and there was no point in risking flights or the vast collective diversity of airports (particularly on a coast in my mind). Then came the local “Shelter at Home” directives, shuttering of “non-essential” businesses and the mad scramble for toilet tissue.

Mom spent about 10 days in the hospital including reconstructive surgery, then transferred to an elder care rehab facility (more or less against her will). A return to the hospital a few days later for a pulmonary problem (thankfully not COVID related) yielded a quick three day recovery but she was stuck there for more than a week while the rehab facility battled an influenza outbreak. God Bless those healthcare workers at that rehab facility for their prescient caution. When the flu was back under control she returned to rehab for almost a month before she finally became so pissed at her lack of control that she checked herself out against medical advice and returned to her home. I was pretty angry with her for her lack of cooperation with the staff and fearful for her safety at home, but had thankfully at least been able to arrange for her freezer and pantry to be stocked and a number of helpful home modifications to be done remotely thanks to her wonderful next door neighbors. Her doctor reports that she is doing better than he expected, and my daily phone conversations with her are infinitely more cordial and enjoyable. While there doesn’t seem to be much for either of us to report beyond the latest COVID-19 developments and the plots of various episodes of Law & Order: SVU, she is clearly much more comfortable at home despite the attendant risks and limitations.

And based on news reports I am knee-weakeningly relieved that she is no longer in a facility, even one as diligent as hers was, where the pooling of the most at risk can bring about true, hopeless horror.

There is undoubtedly much to be cursed at for the COVID-19 pandemic, but if there is anything to be gained for our industry from such widespread suffering let it be this: Carriers, wholesalers and agents (and publications) must redouble their efforts to help the public find both affordable solutions and the motivation to mitigate the long term care risk through insurance products to allow for home care for as long as humanly possible for as many as humanly possible.

It sure wouldn’t hurt if the Government embraced more fully a partnership with our industry and provided more incentives for consumers to embrace insurance solutions. And hopefully even slap the public in the face with the fact that the probability of a long term care need is infinitely and perhaps paradoxically more likely than a death from Coronavirus—and poignantly so if one has solutions in hand that maintain a decent degree of choice. But how realistic is that, really? Listening to the blatant self interest and political posturing on both sides of the aisle, how likely is it that legislators will disregard the risk of endorsing a for-profit industry they previously demonized to court perceived political gain from myriad groups of the disenfranchised, or conversely were hesitant to fully embrace for fear of being blasphemed by mainstream media sycophants? And my cynicism finds it even less likely that any type of non-subjugating and industry-friendly legislation providing significant relief for the long term care crisis facing the American public can make it through both houses of congress without attaching $35 million more for the Kennedy Center. [SPH]