Que Sera’ Sera’

Whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera’ sera’

My gift of a legendary earwig delivered sweetly by a freckle faced Doris Day. Recently, I had the privilege to reminisce and retroactively reflect on the historical trajectory arch of the LTCI struggle. I shared the dais with other grizzled veterans of the insurance conundrum of our lifetime. Although the primary conversation was about how we might return to past successes, it was our re-telling of historical context that caused the most animation in the assembled crowd. I began to take better mental note of those assembled before us. There was a smattering of older faces mostly near the front of the room. They had lived or should I say survived the war stories we were telling. Their faces were eager to share the truth of how we got to here. Their heads were nodding in agreement as we tried to make light of our mutual long-standing frustrations. And then it hit me. This was a big room, all the other seats were full of young home office stakeholders and actuaries with their careers stretching out before their front windows not their nostalgic rear view mirrors . Based on a multitude of raised hands and intense questioning, the inescapable fact was they knew the “problem” persists but they did not know how we got here—wherever here is. The immensity of that personal revelation represents the very sharp double-edged sword that continues to hang precariously over all our heads. On one side of that blade we simply must have learned something from our past mistakes, yet it is the magic of that alternate blade of fresh optimism that holds out our only hope to help more Americans preserve control of their claim destiny. It is the intrinsic courage to try again to contain and blunt a known risk that gave us all our careers. What I am certain of is we have left behind a rich legacy of teachers. Perhaps the most frequent statement I hear from producers is: “I used to sell long term care insurance.” Yes, you did, and I might add once upon a time very successfully.

Even those onerous lessons that may have curbed or diffused your enthusiasm have value as we move forward. As usual I would prefer to over generalize those proverbial sinkholes in our experience and potential speed bumps present in our future as we struggle to control a risk that continues to grow every time I send in a draft of this column:

  • Underwriting remains a curse. Truthfully the pain of most insurance applications would deter even the most valiant. Yet it is not merely the sometimes-indeterminate depth of the administration process itself. It is the radioactive hot potato of how best to handle pre-existing conditions that continues to plague product futures. This seems to be the first cliff that proposed government solutions seems to favor diving off of and where companies initially throw up the most impenetrable fortress walls. This must not be a world of absolutes; it can however rest comfortably in a pool of moderation.
  • Forgive my frankness but it is not bravery that attracts a production drift to easy answers. If you know to include a conversation about the extended cost of custodial care please be willing to collect a premium to guarantee adequate and timely claim payments.
  • Price matters! As the predicted reality of this risk continues to manifest itself we can hopefully choose to slice and dice the solutions to adhere to answers that contribute to providing control of each individual’s claim journey. The goal of all sales should be universal to provide primary or supplemental assistance guaranteeing personal management of your potential need for care. In this regard all premium levels work.
  • Politics matters. Although the now slow but steady progression of state mandated trust programs designed to offset Medicaid liabilities may be viewed as a blessing or tragedy. Regardless of your faith or lack thereof concerning government imposed attempts to ameliorate risk, I must fervently hope that those wonderful younger insurance warriors with bright shiny faces of hope and faith in our own actions can replant those progressive insurance production flags on higher and higher hills.

Other than that I have no opinion on the subject. Que Sera’ Sera’.

Ronald R. Hagelman, CLTC, CSA, LTCP, has been a teacher, cattle rancher, agent, brokerage general agent, corporate consultant and home office executive. As a consultant he has created numerous individual and group insurance products.

A nationally recognized motivational speaker, Hagelman has served on the LIMRA, Society of Actuaries, and ILTCI committees. He is past president of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance and continues to work with LTCI company advisory boards. He remains a contributing “friend” of the SOA LTCI Section Council and the SOA Future of LTCI committee. Hagelman and his partner Barry J. Fisher are principles of Ice Floe Consulting, providing consulting services for Chronic Illness/LTC product development and brokerage distribution strategies.

Hagelman can be reached at Ice Floe Consulting, 156 N. Solms Rd., New Braunfels, TX 78132 Telephone: 830-620-4066. Email: ron@icefloeconsulting.com.