A week ago I wrote about my friend, Martin Bayne (left), and described some of his problems with long term care insurance, of which he is a beneficiary.
The response was impressive. Many readers defended the industry, even against my rather over-the-top (well, less than relevant) charges concerning Hurricane Katrina.
But Martin was made to feel like a kid surrounded by adults talking about him. It's his story we should be listening to, not my second hand version of it.
And so, through pain and a trip to the hospital, through depression and fear of death, I present Martin Bayne:
In the '90s, As you know, I was co-founder of one of the most successful long-term care insurance (LTCi) agencies in the country and publisher of the most widely read web site on the subject on the Internet
(The picture is from NameBenefits LLC, an employee benefits firm in New Jersey.)
It was during those productive and successful years -- just short of my 44th birthday -- I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. That was 14 years ago. Today, I live in an assisted living facility.
Fortunately, I walked the walk in my early 40's and purchased a Lifetime benefit LTCi policy on myself -- which, to date, has paid more than $350,000 in claims.
[This is where the LTCi agent pumps his/her fist in the air and cries out, "I told you. LTCi works. They paid the claim -- everything ends on a happy note."]
In roughly 13 weeks the future of this great Republic of 350 million will be tested once again. And once again -- for as many hours as the polls remain open -- we become a true democracy.
For in that short, precious window of freedom and democracy -- that narrow window of time where a man can think clearly, away from the intoxicating drumbeat of he marketplace -- he will discover that small voice within. That voice of reason, tolerance and justice that says . . .
"Wait. Yes, the claims paid-to-date on Bayne's LTCi policy are $350,000, but what if there's a substantial co-pay. What if the actual costs of his care exceeded $500,000. Who pays that? (thank God for a benevolent former partner). And what if the policy mandates care within the definition of "assisted living" and that means this 58 year-old MIT post grad, author, inventor and teacher is forced to live in a community of people with an average age of 83 -- many who suffer from significant cognitive disfunction?"
I'll tell you what happens. He never leaves his room. He becomes a prisoner in his own apartment. For almost six years now. (Parkinson's was among the infirmities of Pope John Paul II in his last years, right.)
Knowing what I know now, would I buy LTCi if I were 40 years old again? In a heartbeat. I would just have asked more questions and read the contract more carefully. With that said, however, there's just NO WAY I could have anticipated what it was like to be in ADL failure. Therefore, I still would probably have purchased the wrong policy.
You know, it's ironic: as "Mr. Long-Term Care" I was like every other consumer who didn't know starch from Shinola because I'd never been ADL impaired. The insurers LOVED me.
Now that I've spent the last 14 years fighting the good fight against Parkinson's -- and thus, would be truly effective at helping a consumer understand the pros and cons of LTCi, all the insurers suddenly forgot my name.
Thirteen weeks before the general election and not a single word from the candidates about desperately-needed long-term care reform.
And you're sitting on the couch with a bag of chips looking for the remote.