Friday, August 01, 2008

Kiplinger short documentary: "Who Cares: A No-Nonsense Look at Long-Term Care


Kiplinger offers a 25-minute short subject video “Who Cares? A No-Nonsense Look at Long-Term Care” at this site. The film was produced with the help of John Hancock Life Insurance.

The video is in seven segments, rolls real credits at the end, and received the Aegis Award for the video.

The most important moment in the video from the viewpoint of the film and information world comes near the end, when Mary Beth Franklin, the consultant who often speaks in the film, talks about the limits of buying critical family-protection insurance (including long term care insurance) on your own by comparison shopping on the Internet. “You need a real financial planning professional who has your interests at heart,” she says. Since I was invited to interview to become a life insurance agent in the spring of 2005, the comment rang loudly for me. I declined to proceed because I didn’t want to “live the life” or “walk the walk.” Of course, a professional has some kind of license to justify earning a living from working with and vetting and selling products for families. (Actually, applicants for long term care are carefully interviewed, medically evaluated, and screened for underwriting.) Yet, long term care, for other family members (parents) is one walk no one can choose to avoid, and one cannot reliably say he or she will never cause this responsibility to fall on others, whatever his libertarian philosophy of personal responsibility. So, in the biggest picture sense, I appreciate the film's comment on financial planner professionalism even if I personally feel put off by the social pressure to build lists of leads (I get the emails in the industry every day as a result of those interviews three years ago.)

I do, in fact, enjoy collecting the information and displaying it on a website or in a film. I enjoy that more than playing family for another family. The point is well taken. A financial planner is paid to help the client use the existing laws to the client's best advantage, not to question the "morality" or public policy behind the laws, as I like to do in my blogs and writings.

The film starts out in a “continuing care center” which can lead to assisted living and eventually a nursing home. It did not mention “senior apartments” or “age restricted apartments” which offer lower rents to 55 and over with upper and lower income restrictions regulated by HUD. It talked about the cost, which averages about $3000 a month for assisted living and maybe $6300 a month for nursing homes, with considerable variation around the country. The film explains that most health insurance and Medicare do not pay for custodial care. About half of nursing home care does get paid for by state Medicaid programs. The film mentions the (federal and recently tightened) look-back rules and controversy about spend-downs, but does not go into detail. The film also estimates that about 20% of custodial eldercare really takes place in nursing homes.

Franklin does discuss the concept of long term care, the Elimination Period, the fact that the benefits don’t have to be continuous, and the discounts for married couples (who are more like to care for each other). She doesn’t mention that generally a patient needs to meet 2 of 6 criteria of disability for benefits to kick in.

There was a small feature “Assisted Living” directed by Elliot Greenbaume in 2003, from Economic Projections, about a young man who takes a job in an assisted living facility.

This short should not be confused with an in-development project “Who Cares?” a British feature drama about eldercare from Urban Way Productions for TV release later this year. No information is available yet when or where it will air.

I have a lot more posts about long-term care on the "BillRetires" blog (see Profile).

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