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Overcoming LTCI Objections

Appealing to the emotional side of the brain works best.

By Debra C. Newman, CLU, ChFC

When it comes to selling long-term care insurance (LTCI), left brain thinking has limited use. In fact, in a recent study published by the Health Insurance Association of America, only 31 percent of those polled said they bought LTCI for “logical” reasons, such as to protect assets.

On the other hand, more than two-thirds (69 percent) admitted to purchasing LTCI for what could be labeled “emotional” reasons. With this in mind, it’s obvious that agents and planners who focus on asset protection as the main decision-making component could unwittingly be sabotaging their own opportunities to sell the product.

Instead, anticipating and focusing on emotionally driven questions and objections is key in LTCI sales. Among the predictable excuses for choosing not to buy LTCI are the following: 1) a perception that, because of a person’s vast wealth, it doesn’t make economic sense to purchase this insurance; and 2) a plan to end life before long-term care even becomes an issue. Being ready with emotionally driven answers is the solution.

Overcoming the excuse: “I’m so wealthy I don’t need it”
By now you’ve heard or read about the great tax benefits currently available to business owners, individuals and nonprofits that own private LTCI. Nevertheless, many insurance and financial professionals are still not convinced that private LTCI is appropriate for their affluent clients and prospects, even with these benefit changes.

Appealing to the affluent can be an even more difficult challenge, since they don’t feel a need for the insurance. But the challenge isn’t insurmountable; it merely requires a different sales approach. Even though they may not experience the need, many extremely wealthy people want to have the protection. They just need permission to go with their emotional side.

In the majority of cases, it’s peace of mind that seals the deal.

When dealing with wealthy people, trying to sell LTCI with a calculator in hand rarely works. Conversely, telling emotionally driven stories of clients with similar circumstances can be quite successful.

One such story is of a 60-year-old woman with assets valued at more than $1 million. Her interest income alone would have paid for the best quality care after retirement, without ever depleting her principal. But her primary concern was with her family. Even though she had voluntarily made the choice to take in her own mother—and cared for her for six years, without any regrets—she preferred not to have her grown children do the same for her. Purchasing LTCI ensured that she’d have peace of mind, and alleviated the fear of someday becoming a burden.

In a second story, a 70-year-old woman with assets amounting to over $2 million was considering the purchase of LTCI. With that kind of money, she could have easily paid for care in the best facility in town. But, as she was getting older, she was getting less and less secure in spending her own money. The fear of the unknown in the future was holding this woman back from living in the present. After buying LTCI, however, her son noticed that his mother initiated gifting programs for her grandchildren. She started taking expensive, well-earned vacations. Finally she had the peace of mind to start spending her retirement money and enjoying life.

The third story is even more remarkable. A woman worth $30 million decided to buy LTCI. Realizing that she could buy an entire nursing home for herself with that kind of money, her agent questioned the wisdom of such a move. But this multimillionaire had a different fear; she worried about the day when her heirs, keenly watching over what they expected to be a huge windfall, would be making decisions for her with that inheritance in mind. With the fear that those making decisions for her would deny her the highest quality care available, she chose to buy peace of mind through LTCI.

As we’ve seen, peace of mind comes in many forms. In the end, an affluent person’s net worth doesn’t really have much bearing on the decision. It doesn’t really matter whether the person can afford the payments without insurance. What does matter to them is more emotional in nature. For instance, since people have grown to depend on insurance companies paying for their health care, essentially transferring the risk to someone else, writing checks directly can be emotionally painful.

The initial approach that works best for the majority of prospects is telling real-life stories. Getting people to take action is the dilemma. Helping them to anticipate the pain—making it real in their eyes—is the answer. In order to reach that emotional connection, the best advice when dealing with wealthy individuals is to shut off the left brain and put away the calculator. Tell real-life stories, ask them how they feel and then sit back and listen as they sell the product to themselves.

Counteracting the excuse: “I have a plan to call Dr. Kevorkian”
In selling long-term care insurance, one is bound to come up against denial—denial that they’ll ever have to deal with their own mortality. “I’ll never let myself reach the point of needing long-term care. I’ll never need it because I have a plan.” “Maybe they’re right,” you say to yourself empathetically.

You could simply accept their plan at face value—to end life before long-term care becomes necessary. Or you could encourage them to continue this conversation by asking questions like, “What is your plan?” You could follow that with, “How will you know when the time is right?” You might challenge them further by asking, “Is the plan fool-proof? Or could it unravel when you can no longer exercise control over your life?”

Here are two emotionally driven stories to expose the fallibility of such plans.

In one family, a man had instructed his son to “just shoot me” when the time came for long-term care. Over and over again he’d say, “If I get really bad, just shoot me.” This went on for years—the father making the statement and the son nodding and saying, “Yeah, OK Dad.”

Over the years, the father lost his independence gradually. First he had heart problems and needed a nurse to come to the house a couple of times per week. With that, the father reminded the son about the plan to shoot him “if I get really bad.” As the months passed, the father’s condition worsened and he needed care several hours per day by a home care agency. When the son visited, the father kept reminding the son of the plan. Finally, it was too difficult for the father to live at home anymore and he needed to move into a nursing home. Even once he entered into the long-term care environment, the father still told the son, “If I get really bad and need care, just shoot me.”

The bottom-line question is, who’s to decide when—exactly—things are so “bad” that life is no longer worth living? The plan, so simple to convey in words, ultimately failed in reality. Without long-term care insurance, it turned out to be a costly mistake for everyone involved.

In a different family, an insurance agent tried to convince his father, a well-known heart surgeon, that he should purchase long-term care insurance. After several failed attempts, the father issued a proclamation: “If you ask me about long-term care insurance one more time, you’ll no longer be welcome in our home.” The father was adamant about this because he had already made a plan that would eliminate the need for long-term care. The plan was to take his own life with a pill he kept on his nightstand.

Life went on normally until the agent’s parents went on vacation to Hawaii. While in-flight, the father had a stroke. After he recovered, the father and son finally made peace with each other. The father admitted to himself and to his son the flaw in his plan. “I get it now. First of all, I wasn’t at my bedside at the time of the stoke. Second, even if I had been at home, I wouldn’t have been physically able to take the pill. And if I had taken it, I wouldn’t be here with you, alive and well, today.” The father was finally able to face reality, see the need to make more realistic plans and prepare for long-term care.

When there’s denial, there’s no sense of logic involved. The key to this common objection from customers is to tell real-life stories. Then encourage the prospect to talk through his or her own plan with you. Quietly, without a hint of judgment, allow them the chance to talk themselves out of it and recognize the flaws of such a plan. Even if you’ve heard a thousand similar stories, it’s important that you listen, as if it’s the very first time you’ve heard this plan.

Selling peace of mind
Americans are quickly learning that we all must take personal responsibility for privately funding long-term care. For some prospects and clients, the balance sheet approach works very well.

But, in the majority of cases, it’s peace of mind that seals the deal. Helping people find their own versions of peace is the first step. With over two-thirds making these decisions by using the emotional side of their brain, it’s no wonder that agents and financial planners who primarily rely on using logic to persuade prospects and clients have a difficult time selling the product.

If you want to sell LTCI successfully, sit back and listen. In the silence, your customers and prospects will realize that their excuses are just a way to avoid taking action. Facing that “reality,” they will then be open to hearing how they can move forward and more effectively take control of their lives.

Besides, the prison number for Dr. Kevorkian is unlisted.

Debra Newman is the founder and CEO of Newman Long Term Care and serves on AHIA's board of directors. You can reach her at


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