Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bankers Life Long-Term Care Insurance Policyholders Report Problems Getting Paid

Buying long-term care insurance is supposed to be a good thing--it means you are prepared to meet your long-term care needs.  But the purchase can turn into a nightmare if the insurance company refuses to pay for your care. One long-term care insurance company in particular, Bankers Life and Casualty, is gaining a reputation for not paying claims.

A recent report by CBS News highlighted some of the problems Bankers Life customers have been experiencing. The report recounts the story of 93-year-old Timber Harwood, who paid long-term care insurance premiums for years. When he needed home health care after a serious fall, the insurance company gave his family the runaround, repeatedly claiming for almost a year that hundreds of pages of paperwork were missing.

Consumer complaint message boards such as,, and have lit up with complaints about Bankers Life either denying claims outright or using delaying tactics to wear down policyholders.

This is not news to Massachusetts elder law attorney and ElderLawAnswers president Harry S. Margolis, several of whose clients have experienced problems with Bankers Life. "After paying in premiums for years so that their eventual need for long-term care will be covered, they have received denials for a range of invalid reasons," Margolis reports. When Margolis's firm has gotten involved -- sometimes threatening litigation -- Bankers Life has ultimately paid the claims.  Although that is a great result, customers have to pay out of pocket while they wait for the claim to be paid, which is stressful.

Bankers Life's behavior is nothing new. In 2008, 40 states found Bankers Life's parent company Conseco, Inc. (now called CNO), committed a pattern of consumer harm in the long-term care insurance business. While not admitting any wrongdoing, the company agreed to pay $2.3 million in fines and $30 million for system improvements and restitution. A 2007 New York Times article described how Conseco and Bankers Life employees were prohibited from calling policyholders in order to make things so hard for policyholders that they would either give up or die.

In addition, a long-term care policyholder has initiated a class action lawsuit against Senior Health Insurance Co. of Pennsylvania, which was previously owned by Conseco before it was transferred into an independent trust. The lawsuit alleges the company tried to avoid reimbursing policyholders for long-term care by ignoring or taking an unreasonably long time to respond to claims and requiring unnecessary paperwork and medical examinations. For more information about the lawsuit, click here.

Bankers Life responded to our request for comment with this statement:
Bankers Life and Casualty is committed to the highest standards for ethics, fairness and accountability, and strives to pay all claims in accordance with policy contracts in a timely manner.  We take all complaints seriously, and work with all parties to resolve issues as soon as possible.  We fulfill our obligations to our policyholders based on specific policy language, state requirements and the claim information submitted.  In 2011, Bankers paid in excess of $400 million on long-term care claims and benefits to our more than 300,000 long-term care customers nationwide.

If you experience a problem with your long-term care insurance company, contact an elder law attorney.

This article is reprinted with the permission of Elder Law Answers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Economists Say That Tightening Medicaid Rules Would Barely Increase Demand for Private Insurance

It is sometimes claimed that reducing the amount of assets an individual can keep while qualifying for Medicaid would increase the purchase of private long-term care insurance coverage.  

Now, two professors of economics have estimated that tightening Medicaid asset rules would do little to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance policies.  

Although Medicaid recipients may keep only about $2,000 in assets in most states, their spouses may retain between $22,728 and $113,640, depending on their particular state.  The minimum and maximum are determined by federal law but individual states’ limits may set their own limits within these parameters.  

In an article published in the Fall 2011 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Jeffrey R. Brown of the University of Illinois and Amy Finkelstein of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that a $10,000 decrease in the level of assets an individual and their spouse can keep while qualifying for Medicaid would increase private long-term care insurance coverage by 1.1 percentage points.

“To put this in perspective,” they write, “if every state in the country moved from their current Medicaid asset eligibility requirements to the most stringent Medicaid eligibility requirements allowed by federal law, this would decrease average household assets protected from Medicaid by about $25,000. This, in turn, would increase the demand for private long-term care insurance by only 2.7 percentage points. While this represents a large increase in insurance coverage relative to the baseline ownership rate, the vast majority of households would still find it unattractive to purchase private insurance.”

Overall, Brown and Finkelstein are pessimistic about the prospects for encouraging more Americans to buy long-term care insurance unless Medicaid is completely restructured or done away with altogether.  They note that long-term care insurance is a poor deal, particularly for men, who get back only about 33 cents on the premium dollar they spend, and that for a 65-year-old man of average wealth, 60 percent of the private insurance benefits would have been paid by Medicaid.   

But the authors say that even if the implicit Medicaid “tax” on long-term care insurance were eliminated, “other factors could still prevent the market for long-term care insurance from developing.”  These factors include the availability of informal insurance provided by family members, the liquid assets in the home serving as a “buffer stock of assets,” and the difficulty many individuals have in “making decisions about long-term, probabilistic outcomes.”

To read the article, “Insuring Long-Term Care in the United States,” click here.
For a commentary on the article in Forbes magazine, click here.
For more on Medicaid's rules, click here.

This article was reprinted with the permission of