Perhaps the most rewarding activity for insurance professionals is that we are able to spend an inordinate amount of time as students of human behavior. You might say we are witnesses and casual observers of the American consumer’s strengths and weaknesses.
The ongoing challenge of making more sales and the mystery of what motivates a buying decision is what keeps my engines running. Frankly, the challenge of the LTCI conundrum is what wakes me almost every morning. I really have only one line of business; thus, in order to maintain my sanity, I must also strive to maintain my sense of humor and enjoy my entertainment where I find it.
Recently during a large voluntary enrollment I decided to push the envelope a little at the employee group meeting. Traditionally we explain what we mean by long term care and how LTC insurance provides a reliable solution to a real and potentially devastating problem. We have learned it is best to approach voluntary enrollments with a classic assumed close. We have even gone so far as to fill in the names on the application and simply check off those who refuse to participate in this discounted employer-sponsored program.
My insurance career actually began in worksite marketing—I was a payroll enroller for permanent life insurance. Nothing has changed from when I walked to the front of the room almost 30 years ago and ended my presentation with a very strong admonition that if the attendees had not filled out the application to please turn it over and sign the declination of coverage. My next suggestion was—and still is—for those signing the decline to drive safely on the way home.
At one recent meeting we gave each employee a one-page form, an application for a personal interview with a declination of participation at the bottom, and sample rates for three options on the back. This very official looking declination read: “Decline Coverage—OPT OUT: I understand I have the ability to apply with reduced underwriting during open enrollment at my employer and I decline to apply for coverage. Please print name, sign and date.”
Several times during the 20-minute presentation I held up the form asking everyone to schedule an appointment during the enrollment period or to please sign that they chose not to participate. I emphasized that my enrollment partner would be at the door checking paperwork when they left. Before I disclose the results of my somewhat aggressive performance, I want you to know that the next morning the human resources staff who were present suggested that perhaps I had been a little “pushy.” Of course, I very kindly and sincerely explained that I only wanted everyone to have the opportunity to make an informed decision and choose to do what is right.
Now here are the very interesting results: Half of those in attendance signed up for an interview (not bad). The other half turned in the forms with their names at the top, but no one signed a declination. I had a two-hour drive home that evening and I laughed to myself most of the way. Those who did not sign knew it was wrong—they knew they were choosing to leave themselves and their families at risk.
Based on the questions I received at the end of the meeting some even had parents who had experienced the cost of long term care, and still they would not buy or admit publicly that they were making a bad decision. Most importantly, it was not a matter of cost—these were solid payrolls and very affordable benefit options.
One final note, I have been repeatedly asked to comment on the LTC insurance provisions present in both the House and Senate versions of pending health reform legislation. For the very same reason no one would sign the declination, the voluntary employer enrollment option outlined in the bill will not work! These provisions would, however, complicate our sales and confuse our course of action installing yet another educational obstacle to helping our customers protect themselves and their families. They will not improve anything meaningful and, to be completely honest, I’m not laughing right now.