Americans were estimated to spend an average of $688.87 each on holiday-related shopping, according the National Retail Federation. Now that the wrapping paper has been tossed and many holiday gifts have been exchanged or returned, there is still one big-ticket item many workers have yet to buy.

There are 8 million Americans with some form of private long-term care insurance in a market with the potential to reach up to more than twice as many - 15 million to 20 million - including individual, group, life insurance products and annuity products, according to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

Unfortunately, holiday retailers seem to have done a better sell job than LTC vendors. More than half of employees in large corporations think they already have LTC insurance either through the government or their employer health plan, though they don't, says Dan Cahn, senior vice president of business development at LTC Financial Partners, LLC.

To combat consumers' lack of knowledge, LTC Financial Partners and others hold educational meetings where an LTC specialist presents options to the employees and doesn't necessarily sell the product. Providing employees with options breeds interest and encourages them to take a closer look at their LTC plan and insuring their future.

"Not everyone needs long-term care insurance, but everyone should have a long- term plan," Cahn advises.

Employers should look to LTC educators to explain to employees the facts regarding funding sources and out-of-pocket costs for different types of care throughout the country, says Jason Hochstadt, executive vice president of Jedi Management, Inc. & Lifeco Associates, Inc. When educating, there are a lot of parallels between long-term care insurance and other types of insurance, financial, investment and estate planning.

Indeed, employers can integrate LTC education within their financial education campaign, says Rich McCabe, a director in PwC Human Resource Services.

"As part of your long-term financial plan, long-term care insurance can play a critical role in wealth preservation," McCabe explains. The estimated average $200 per day individuals pay for inpatient care "can erode your savings dramatically and become a significant financial burden for your loved ones," he adds.

Education goes national

Targeted LTC education will be taking the national stage with the 3in4 Need More national awareness campaign, based on statistics from the Health and Human Services Department that 70% of individuals will need some sort of long-term care by the time they're 65.

Also relevant to the 3in4 campaign: Prudential notes that 74% of consumers ages 55 to 65 polled for a recent survey say they are concerned about needing some kind of long- term care, and that 25% of all consumers admitted that they have no idea what a day in a nursing home costs. Less than one-quarter (22%) of survey participants cite private LTC insurance as a means to pay for care.

The hope of 3in4 Need More campaign "is to bring the same level of awareness to Americans by utilizing celebrity spokespeople to advocate on the need to plan for one's long- term care - [equivalent to the] Got Milk? campaign," says Jonas C. Roeser, senior vice president of marketing and operations for LTC Financial Partners, LLC.

In addition to convincing workers of the importance of LTC planning is the need to show them the advantages of purchasing coverage through their employer.

One of the primary advantages of group insurance through an employer is the opportunity for employees to enroll without evidence of insurability as long as they are working, though dependents need to prove their insurability, explains McCabe.

For additional incentives, employees can receive discounts for being in a group setting, for their marital status and for having good health. This encourages them to apply before they have major health issues. Also, in group insurance, an employee can insure their parents and their adult children.

In total, an employee could gather up to 45% from one carrier by adding up all the discounts, says Hochstadt.

Convincing employers

However, employees aren't the only ones who need convincing that LTC coverage is an important and valuable benefit. Employers worry that a third party will only sell to the employee - not educate them - or that the insurance offerings will become a distraction, raising more questions than answers.

HR should respond to upper management's qualms by pressing upon the impact of lost productivity and presenteeism, wherein the employee comes to work, but is not present mentally.

"When you look at the studies of lost productivity time from employees that are caregivers, it adds up, and it can affect companies," Hochstadt says. "[LTC insurance is] a win-win for employees and employers."

There are lots of benefits to securing LTC insurance through employers, says Hochstadt. They have the ability to discriminate in terms of to whom coverage will be offered and paid for by the employer. For instance, an employer could make LTC available to management and offer minimal coverage or voluntary to the rest. There is also flexibility in terms of who pays the premiums.

It's also a tax-deductible expense for the business, depending upon the form of business entity.

Another worry is that in light of recent rate hikes and even major carriers leaving the business, there is instability in the marketplace.

"Naturally when one of our major carriers, John Hancock, announces that they're raising rates as a carrier that's been viewed as one of the more stable in the industry, it does send a message of instability," Cahn acknowledges. "It's important to note that it's not a message of instability; it's a message of maturation. This is part of the development of the industry. As the claims come in, the carriers have a better idea of how to price the policies."

McCabe expects that due to volatility in the market, employers that don't offer coverage aren't likely to introduce LTC now. However, when the CLASS Act is implemented in 2012 (see sidebar), some employers may revisit introducing LTC insurance.

"Long-term care is in the early stages still,"

says, predicting that in 20 years, LTC will be part of the cultural environment, a similar adoption period to the 401(k)'s path. -K.K.

mericans were estimated to spend an average of $688.87 each on holiday-related shopping, according the National Retail Federation. Now that the wrapping paper has been tossed and many holiday gifts have been exchanged or returned, there is still one big-ticket item many workers have yet to buy.

There are 8 million Americans with some form of private long-term care insurance in a market with the potential to reach up to more than twice as many - 15 million to 20 million - including individual, group, life insurance products and annuity products, according to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

Unfortunately, holiday retailers seem to have done a better sell job than LTC vendors. More than half of employees in large corporations think they already have LTC insurance either through the government or their employer health plan, though they don't, says Dan Cahn, senior vice president of business development at LTC Financial Partners, LLC.

To combat consumers' lack of knowledge, LTC Financial Partners and others hold educational meetings where an LTC specialist presents options to the employees and doesn't necessarily sell the product. Providing employees with options breeds interest and encourages them to take a closer look at their LTC plan and insuring their future.

"Not everyone needs long-term care insurance, but everyone should have a long- term plan," Cahn advises.

Employers should look to LTC educators to explain to employees the facts regarding funding sources and out-of-pocket costs for different types of care throughout the country, says Jason Hochstadt, executive vice president of Jedi Management, Inc. & Lifeco Associates, Inc. When educating, there are a lot of parallels between long-term care insurance and other types of insurance, financial, investment and estate planning.

Indeed, employers can integrate LTC education within their financial education campaign, says Rich McCabe, a director in PwC Human Resource Services.

"As part of your long-term financial plan, long-term care insurance can play a critical role in wealth preservation," McCabe explains. The estimated average $200 per day individuals pay for inpatient care "can erode your savings dramatically and become a significant financial burden for your loved ones," he adds.

Education goes national

Targeted LTC education will be taking the national stage with the 3in4 Need More national awareness campaign, based on statistics from the Health and Human Services Department that 70% of individuals will need some sort of long-term care by the time they're 65.

Also relevant to the 3in4 campaign: Prudential notes that 74% of consumers ages 55 to 65 polled for a recent survey say they are concerned about needing some kind of long- term care, and that 25% of all consumers admitted that they have no idea what a day in a nursing home costs. Less than one-quarter (22%) of survey participants cite private LTC insurance as a means to pay for care.

The hope of 3in4 Need More campaign "is to bring the same level of awareness to Americans by utilizing celebrity spokespeople to advocate on the need to plan for one's long- term care - [equivalent to the] Got Milk? campaign," says Jonas C. Roeser, senior vice president of marketing and operations for LTC Financial Partners, LLC.

In addition to convincing workers of the importance of LTC planning is the need to show them the advantages of purchasing coverage through their employer.

One of the primary advantages of group insurance through an employer is the opportunity for employees to enroll without evidence of insurability as long as they are working, though dependents need to prove their insurability, explains McCabe.

For additional incentives, employees can receive discounts for being in a group setting, for their marital status and for having good health. This encourages them to apply before they have major health issues. Also, in group insurance, an employee can insure their parents and their adult children.

In total, an employee could gather up to 45% from one carrier by adding up all the discounts, says Hochstadt.

Convincing employers

However, employees aren't the only ones who need convincing that LTC coverage is an important and valuable benefit. Employers worry that a third party will only sell to the employee - not educate them - or that the insurance offerings will become a distraction, raising more questions than answers.

HR should respond to upper management's qualms by pressing upon the impact of lost productivity and presenteeism, wherein the employee comes to work, but is not present mentally.

"When you look at the studies of lost productivity time from employees that are caregivers, it adds up, and it can affect companies," Hochstadt says. "[LTC insurance is] a win-win for employees and employers."

There are lots of benefits to securing LTC insurance through employers, says Hochstadt. They have the ability to discriminate in terms of to whom coverage will be offered and paid for by the employer. For instance, an employer could make LTC available to management and offer minimal coverage or voluntary to the rest. There is also flexibility in terms of who pays the premiums.

It's also a tax-deductible expense for the business, depending upon the form of business entity.

Another worry is that in light of recent rate hikes and even major carriers leaving the business, there is instability in the marketplace.

"Naturally when one of our major carriers, John Hancock, announces that they're raising rates as a carrier that's been viewed as one of the more stable in the industry, it does send a message of instability," Cahn acknowledges. "It's important to note that it's not a message of instability; it's a message of maturation. This is part of the development of the industry. As the claims come in, the carriers have a better idea of how to price the policies."

McCabe expects that due to volatility in the market, employers that don't offer coverage aren't likely to introduce LTC now. However, when the CLASS Act is implemented in 2012 (see sidebar), some employers may revisit introducing LTC insurance.

"Long-term care is in the early stages still," Slome says, predicting that in 20 years, LTC will be part of the cultural environment, a similar adoption period to the 401(k)'s path.

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