October is Critical Illness awareness month … But are we really aware?
The story always begins the same way: “I have a friend/family member who had … (insert catastrophic illness) …” The next thing you typically hear is how that debilitating illness has left the friend or family member in dire straits. It’s heartbreaking, but unfortunately, the same scenarios keep playing over and over again.
These events cause more than emotional and physical pain; they can also cause financial pain. If you couldn’t work due to a major medical crisis, you’d potentially be left with a mortgage, car payment, credit card bills, utilities and medical bills … and no way to pay for them. With critical illness insurance, however, you could have cash to cover those expenses so you could focus on your health and recovery.
My family’s story starts the same way: My grandmother was a healthy, 50-something-year-old woman who never had anything majorly wrong with her … then one day, she dropped. She had a hemorrhagic stroke, brought on by a burst brain aneurysm. After several surgeries, and a lot of close calls, she survived, but had multiple complications that impeded her ability to work again. She basically lost her ability to function as an adult. We had to teach her to feed and dress herself, write her name, even to speak. It was a very hard, very frustrating phase in her life.
Before my grandmother’s stroke, she was an incredibly independent woman, living life and enjoying her grandchildren. After the stroke, she was reduced to an adult trapped in a toddler’s body. She couldn’t do anything for herself. Aside from the emotionally crippling incident, my grandfather was taxed with paying for her medical bills. They piled up quite quickly with weeks in the hospital, several surgeries, a few ICU stays and then months in rehabilitation. Once she was home, there were multiple weekly visits to physical therapy.
Unfortunately, my grandparents did not have critical illness insurance. They were of the mindset that they would just pay cash whenever anything major happened. Thankfully, they were great savers, but not having extra protection was a tremendous burden to them.
Information is powerful. Had my grandparents known this was going to happen, they could have properly insured my grandmother. Of course, we can never predict the future. That’s why it’s extremely important for us to get the word out about critical Illness insurance, and how critical it can be, not just in October, but every day.
Meghan Cormany’s focus within the Disability Marketing team is to find available coverage for tricky medical cases. She has worked exclusively with Ash’s Disability Marketing Team for more than seven years, so she brings experience and knowledge of individual and business-related disability products and case design, along with medical underwriting with our carriers.
Breast Cancer: two simple words that significantly impact the lives of millions of people – men, women, young and old have all been affected in some way by this type of cancer.
With approximately 1 in every 8 women and 1 out of 1,000 men in the United States developing invasive breast cancer over the course of her/his lifetime, the impact is far-reaching. While the prevalence remains high, the death rate associated with breast cancer has decreased by 34 percent since 1990. Higher survival rates are attributed to improved treatment and early detection.
This decrease in mortality is great news for the life insurance industry, as it has led to more favorable risk assessment outcomes with increased insurability and reduced additional table rating and/or flat extra charges. We see a varying risk philosophy among our carriers, often the result of proprietary underwriting manuals, use of multiple reinsurance manuals and exercising crediting programs to offset debits.
The improvements referenced above now result in many clients qualifying for Standard/Non-Rated coverage within a few years of treatment, and clients with very select types of early stage breast cancer possibly qualifying for as favorable as Standard Plus to Preferred with case-by-case consideration.
To help secure the right details from your clients with breast cancer, you can use the Ash Brokerage Breast Cancer Questionnaire, which gives an overview of the information needed for underwriting.
With so many variables involved – from the diagnosis/treatment details to carrier risk assessment – we invite you to leverage the experience of your Ash Brokerage Underwriting Team. We look forward to assisting you on your next breast cancer case.
If you get a chance, we hope you’ll support Kristina Alderdice, one of own Ash Brokerage survivors, in a project she holds close to her heart. Read about Hope in a Handbag at http://hopeinahandbag.org/hope/ – a $50 donation provides a bag containing supplies to a mastectomy patient recovering from surgery.
With the majority of her 25-year brokerage insurance career spent as an underwriting advocate to a diverse customer base, Rebecca Black has built far-reaching partnerships throughout the industry. The tenacity of her passion, coupled with the depth of her knowledge and creative approach, has earned her recognition as an expert among her peers and customers alike.
In the last few years, the long-term care market has been like a white water rafting trip.
On a rafting trip, you may have some anxiety as you go through the rapids. It may be scary – you could get a face full or water when you’re least expecting it, or you could feel like you’re going to fall out of the boat. You may start to second-guess your decision, but you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER jump out of the boat. Just listen to your guide – they know how to get you through the rough patches to the smooth water. Stick with it, ride the ups and downs, and know the situation will change.
It’s the same with the LTC planning. We all know pricing has changed. Carriers made incorrect assumptions and mispriced blocks of business. Not only that, but also they gave the farm away with 5 percent compounding inflation and lifetime benefits. How could they have ever been profitable trying to manage an unknown risk?
But, what happened, happened. We can’t change the mistakes of that past, but we can change how we approach the future. We must adapt to the new market – that means we can’t keep selling policies the same way we used to.
Despite the market’s ups and downs, many of us are still trying to sell the Cadillac plan – the most coverage our client could possibly afford because nursing home costs are through the roof. What typically happens in this case? The client says, “Wow, that’s too expensive. I could never afford that!” They walk away.
Does that approach do anything to help our clients? No! When we do that, we waste their time (and ours), and they’re left completely unprotected.
Remember, some coverage is better than no coverage. Yes, a smaller policy probably won’t cover 100 percent of the costs of care, but I have yet to see a client send a check back because it wasn’t enough. Also, a lot of different planning options are out there, so be open to different scenarios and remember that the product is just the funding option for the overall plan.
The next time you’re having an LTC planning discussion, don’t jump out of the boat at the first sign of trouble. Be persistent, relax, and find a way to reach the calmer waters ahead.
Chad Eyrich is proud to help keep families together with long-term care planning. He helps advisors and their clients avoid the potential financial devastation of an LTC event by providing strategies around traditional, asset-based and linked-benefit insurance. In addition to earning his Long-Term Care Professional and Certified in Long-Term Care designations, Chad has a life and health insurance license, and a property and casualty insurance license.
My wife, Kristy, and I get the same reactions almost every time we share the story of how she had a stroke at the age of 22.
“Are you serious?”
“Really?! What happened?”
We then either provide a short, elevator-pitch recap, a more in-depth version, or the hour-long story of our experience, depending on the audience.
It was a Friday in September, at the end of the day. I received a call from Kristy, and she was saying something was wrong with her, but she was hard to understand. I told her the phone was breaking up and to call me from her office phone. The next call I received was from her new boss, who said I should get there right away or he was going to call an ambulance.
I got to her office as quickly as I could. At that point, she was unable to speak any words, make any audible sounds, write, text, type or communicate in any way short of giving a thumbs up that she could understand everything I was saying to her.
We went straight to the ER where an MRI revealed she had just suffered a massive stroke, and more testing would be required to determine the cause. In complete shock, we didn’t hear much of what was said after that. Later, a CT scan revealed her left carotid artery had completely dissected – cause unknown – and a piece of the clot that had formed traveled up to her brain, resulting in the stroke.
That night, the neurologist braced us for what to expect moving forward. She said that due to the severity of the stroke, it was likely that my wife’s communication impairments would last months, years or even permanently.
She was 22 years old, and we had been married for three months. We had just bought our first home, started new jobs and adopted a puppy – all within those first three months. There was absolutely no indication of this looming catastrophe. She didn’t smoke, drink or have a family history of stroke. She is a relatively healthy woman with absolutely no probability of a stroke ever, let alone in her early 20s. Even her cardiologist said in the 30-plus years he’s been practicing, she was only his second case of a major artery spontaneous dissection. He did say strokes in younger people are more common than you think, but for other reasons.
Overwhelmed could not even begin to describe how we were feeling. There was a conflicting sense of grief surrounding us. Realizing the gravity of the situation, we rejoiced in her survival but at the same time mourned for what we stood to lose. Kristy says she had a sudden moment of clarity and thought, “No! This will not be my life!” She became intensely determined to recover.
Did you know it really is possible to break a mental sweat? I can tell you from witnessing it firsthand – my wife physically struggled, without even moving, to restore the connections between her brain, mouth and hand. First there were small sounds, then barely legible handwriting and short, stuttered sentences. Longer conversations, with a little less struggle to form her words, and elementary handwriting came after that.
By God’s miraculous healing, she was released more than a week later. And had you not known what happened, you never would have been able to tell the difference. She was practically back to normal.
How does this tie into life insurance and/or critical illness coverage? Well, I was fortunate enough to start my career at a small GA office in Fort Wayne. We specialized in health and life coverage. My boss suggested we get insured since we were married and had a house. We were looking at 10-year term with accelerated underwriting. We completed applications, and I brought them home to have them signed …
They sat on our table at home for two weeks, and that’s when the stroke happened.
I thought, “Are you kidding me?! Why didn’t we sign them? Why didn’t we make this a priority? Why wouldn’t a young couple think life insurance is important?”
Now we know. Kristy might not have been so lucky. She could have died without having any coverage. We immediately applied after that, and I received Preferred Plus rates within three days of underwriting (well within the two weeks our applications just sat at home and could have been processed). Kristy was postponed for one year, and then she received a Standard Nonsmoker rate with a flat extra of $7.50 per thousand for the next three years. At least we were able to get coverage, but I had to reduce her coverage to one-fifth of the original amount to keep the premiums within our budget.
While we were aware of the need for life insurance, we were not aware that something traumatic could happen to us at our age. We were not aware of critical illness coverage at the time, and probably would have overlooked it even if we did. Having stayed in the insurance industry and being fortunate to work at firms with voluntary benefits, we have since added critical illness coverage on myself, while my wife has to reach her 10-year anniversary of her stroke before they will consider. If these benefits were ever to go away, you can be sure we will be buying an individual critical illness policy for both of us.
There are so many lessons we have learned from this experience. First and foremost, never take life and loved ones for granted – everything can disappear in an instant. Second, laughter is an incredibly powerful, potent remedy (ask me about her nickname “stroke brain”). Third, no one is invincible, no matter how healthy you think you are. Fourth, always sign the life insurance paperwork as soon as you get it. Lastly, consider all the insurance products that are available (life, critical illness, disability, long-term care) and think of the consequences of NOT having coverage. You really cannot be over-insured in a world of uncertainty.
Another response we get when telling this story is, “Wow, I know someone else who was only 20-something years old and had a stroke, too!” You will probably find that everyone knows someone with a similar story.
Please feel free to share this story with your family, friends, agents and clients to raise awareness of how important life and critical illness insurance products are – not only to purchase, but to purchase before it’s too late (or too expensive).
Michael Burns is an internal wholesaler who manages three territories across the country, managing and cultivating relationships to increase sales opportunities for advisors and their practices. He’s been in the insurance industry for more than seven years, working with two other local BGAs before joining Ash Brokerage. He recently obtained his life and health license and is working on his Series 6 and 63 designations.
Think about the last time you saw news of a local resident celebrating their 100th birthday. I’m guessing you can recall at least one in the last 12 months. Twenty years ago, these news stories were seen much less frequently and more on a national level than local.
No doubt, the shift from healing sickness to preventing it, coupled with higher patient intelligence and more effective treatment, is resulting in longer lifespans. As published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March of 2012: “The risk of dying has decreased 60 percent from 1935 to 2010 with heart disease and cancer being the first and second leading cause of death.”
Recognizing our country’s strides in medicine and education, the life insurance industry has made its own strides to recognize the impact of healthy lifestyles. Gone are the days of carriers opening their 500-page reinsurance manual and going through the “A+B=C” exercise. While those same fundamentals still exist, underwriting doesn’t stop there.
The majority of life insurance carriers now utilize some form of a crediting program to offset the risk assessment based on an applicant’s positive lifestyle choices. While these crediting programs vary from one company to the next (and some are more transparent than others in sharing criteria), the most common credit opportunities include:
It’s also well known that life insurance companies are working diligently to increase the ease of doing business by reducing costly underwriting requirements. Many have eliminated stress tests and exams by doctors while reducing routinely ordered client medical records. These are terrific strides to improve the overall application experience.
But in a world of fewer requirements with credit-based underwriting, you and your client play a more critical role. As the saying goes, “Help us help you.” You might be asking, “How do I possibly help?” Fair question.
Two simple words can have a big impact: cover letter. Need help writing one? Here are some guidelines:
If you’re submitting an electronic application, terrific! Simply prepare the letter via email and submit it to your assigned Ash Brokerage case manager. Our underwriter, and the carrier’s, will now have a better understanding of your client’s overall lifestyle.
These extra steps truly position Ash Brokerage to successfully do what we do best: advocate for you and your client! Call us today to start your next case.
Jennifer Glessner knows every opportunity she’s entrusted with is truly a gift, whether it’s the advisor’s first or 100th policy. With 20 years of life insurance experience, she grew up in the business and has a vital understanding of where we were, where we are and where we are going as an industry. Her diverse background includes underwriting, sales, operation and leadership, and she’s also an Associate of the Life Management Institute and an Associate of the Academy of Life Underwriting.
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