Mass. AG Notes Concerns Regarding Long-Term Care

August 1, 2005

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has asked Massachusetts insurers to provide information about their marketing and sale of long-term care insurance — an important financial tool more and more consumers use to protect family assets during their later years in life — as part of an initiative to protect consumers, mainly seniors, from deceptive sales practices.

The letters to insurance carriers across the state, sent Monday by Assistant Attorney General Glenn Kaplan, Chief of Reilly’s Insurance Division, seek detailed information about policies and practices pertaining to the sale of long-term care insurance and the oversight and training of agents who make those sales. Reilly’s Office conducted a sting and took action against several long-term care insurance agents and carriers accused of failing to provide key information required by state law to potential customers. In addition, some agents who lacked the proper qualifications inappropriately advised consumers about the legal or tax implications of the insurance.

“Long term care insurance is an important protection for many seniors and their families,” Reilly said. “Many consumers are confused by this insurance, and they need straight talk from their agents and insurers, not misleading sales pitches. We will continue to monitor this area and investigate insurance agencies who don’t follow the law.”

Long-term care insurance provides benefits to consumers when they are no longer able to care for themselves, and may include payments for services in an insured’s own home, or in a variety of other settings, including assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Long-term care insurance is a complicated product, with implications for tax, estate, and financial planning efforts by seniors.

In Monday’s letter, Kaplan expressed concern “that carriers take seriously their responsibility to properly train and oversee the agents who sell their products.” The letter asks insurance carriers to review their policies and take steps to make sure that agents selling their products perform their jobs properly. Kaplan also sought suggestions about ways to improve the long-term care insurance system and protect consumers through legislative measures or other avenues.

“Agents have a special responsibility with long-term care insurance because of the age of many purchasers and the vulnerable position many policyholders will be in when the coverage is actually needed,” Kaplan wrote in the letter. “Most policyholders will not submit claims until at least a decade after they purchase their initial policies – at this later date many will not be in a position to best advocate for their needs.”

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