#299 | You Say, Tomato; I say, Extension of Benefits
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The more life insurance changes, the more it changes. Life insurance has transformed into a kind of Swiss army knife with functions designed to harness the power of living benefits for long-term care. That’s right, you don’t have to die to access a policy’s death benefit. Gone are the days when the darling of life insurance was LIRP (life insurance retirement plan). Today, even LIRP sales applications have had to acquiesce and bow down to make room for rider solutions to cover long-term care expenses. In these scenarios, Chronic Illness riders are typically subordinate having no up-front charges for the priority focus to remain on accumulation and distribution (i.e., the tradeoff of no up-front charges to maintain the integrity of the accumulation emphasis – results in the likelihood of only a fraction of the death benefit being eligible to accelerate for chronic illness needs).
Extension of Benefits. What’s in a Name you ask? Everything.
Let’s start by identifying which insurers offer LTC Extension of Benefit solutions on a life insurance chassis: Lincoln (MoneyGuard), OneAmerica (Asset Care), Nationwide (CareMatters), Brighthouse (SmartCare), MassMutual (CareChoice), Securian (SecureCare), Pacific Life (PremierCare), New York Life (Asset Flex), and RiverSource (TrioSource).
Now, if you ask an insurance professional what category they use to describe these products you will hear: Hybrid, Linked Benefit, Asset Based, or Combination products. Although I concede that these are not wrong, they are lacking. The problem is sometimes they are used interchangeably to describe LTC and Chronic Illness riders on life insurance, and quite frankly, that’s an insult to LTC Extension of Benefit products.
The point is Extension of Benefit products offer more robust LTC benefits. Specifically, they allow one to (1) accelerate the entire guaranteed death benefit amount; (2) plus accelerate a second pool of guaranteed monies after the death benefit has been exhausted (hence “extension of benefits”); (3) they have premiums which are guaranteed (no in-force rate actions to increase charges for existing policy holders); (4) they have monthly LTC benefit amounts which are guaranteed; and (5) most offer guaranteed return of premiums or cash values – up to 100% of the premiums paid. As a result, they are sometimes sold as repositioning lazy assets (savings account or CD) where your investment guarantees a return of premium should you surrender the policy and if you don’t surrender – then it affords a leveraged death benefit or leveraged LTC benefit.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then let me paint this to illustrate the superiority of LTC Extension of Benefit products. Although each vessel will get you to the other side, the benefits/experience are entirely different.
|Chronic Illness Rider, No, Up-front Charges||Canoe|
|Chronic Illness Rider, Yes, Up-front Charges||Boat|
|Long-Term Care Acceleration Rider||Motorboat|
|LTC Extension of Benefit Products||Yacht|
If you are selling a:
- Canoe: Chronic Illness Rider, No, up-front charges, 101(g), then you are selling Life Insurance. Regulations prohibit you from describing or marketing the Chronic Illness benefit as long-term care. Only a fraction of the death benefit may be eligible to be accelerated to help cover chronic illness expenses, and often there is no remaining death benefit. Amounts eligible for acceleration can vary significantly and could be $0.00.
- Boat: Chronic Illness Rider, Yes, up-front charges, 101(g), then you are selling Life Insurance. Regulations prohibit you from describing or marketing the Chronic Illness benefit as long-term care. The entire death benefit is eligible to be accelerated to cover chronic illness expenses or to be paid out as a remainder death benefit to beneficiaries.
- Motorboat: Long-Term Care Rider, 7702B, then you are selling Life Insurance. These riders are qualified long-term care with built in consumer protections. They are permitted to be described and marketed as long-term care. The entire death benefit is eligible to be accelerated to cover long-term care expenses or to be paid out as a remainder death benefit to beneficiaries.
- Yacht: Extension of Benefits, 7702B, then you are selling both Long-Term Care Insurance and Life Insurance. The LTC component is qualified long-term care with built in consumer protections. This product can be described and marketed as long-term care insurance. The entire death benefit (base benefit) is eligible to be accelerated to cover long-term care expenses. In addition, a second pool of money (LTC extension of benefits) is also eligible to be accelerated to cover long-term care expenses. The extension of benefit pool will pay monthly benefits for the duration selected such as an additional period of 2 years, 4 years, or 6 years (and in the case of one company payable for life). Inflation options can be elected which is vital to planning. If the base benefit is not used for long-term care, then it will be paid out as a death benefit to beneficiaries.
Within the context of a once in a 100-year pandemic combined with the rising cost of health care, consumer demand for long-term care solutions will only continue to grow. Then when we add that 12+ states are considering state mandated long-term care, it increases the likelihood that new insurance company entrants will capitalize by offering solutions which meet states’ criteria. (In the case of Washington, Extension of Benefit products, LTC riders and Traditional Long-Term Care insurance met the eligibility criteria to exempt residents from the payroll tax. But Chronic Illness riders did not). BTW: If you don’t already have your Health license to sell qualified long-term care, then what are you waiting for?
Unfortunately for insurers, they continue to be plagued by historically low interest rates which impacts both the pricing and the guarantees they offer. In the 4Q2021 alone, four insurers implemented up to double digit rate increases on their Extension of Benefit products. It is logical to expect more rate increases in 2022 and perhaps you have already heard some wholesalers socializing this publicly on webinars.
Shift towards Long-Term Care Benefit Growth Opportunities that are Not Guaranteed
Today insurers who offer LTC Extension of Benefit products have come up with creative solutions to grow long-term care benefit pools subject to non-guaranteed elements. For example:
- Some companies allow non-guaranteed dividends on WL to increase the death and LTC benefit
- Some allow the non-guaranteed growth of IUL to increase the LTC benefit
- Some allow the non-guaranteed growth of VUL to increase the LTC benefit
- Some offer inflation options that track a non-guaranteed index, where the greater of the performance of the index or a roll-up rate will increase the LTC Benefit
The monthly LTC benefit amounts can be increased or the number of months for which the stated LTC benefit is paid out can be prolonged subject to non-guaranteed assumptions. Maybe one day we will even see wellness initiatives being utilized to increase either the benefit amount or duration.
Based on state filings of LTC Extension of Benefit products, we can predict:
- More insurers will enter this market
- Lower Return of Premiums in return for Higher Monthly LTC benefit amounts
- Extended pay premium options such as 15-year, 20-year, and premiums payable for life
- Waiver of Premiums for Extended pays
For LTC Extension of Benefit products, when we consider the likelihood of continued rate increases for new business on the horizon, along with a trend toward declining return of premiums, and the erosion of guaranteed elements, perhaps we should run and not walk to sell todays products.
With regard to Chronic Illness rider variations and LTC acceleration riders, life insurance will always be life insurance first with a suitable need for life insurance to justify the sale.
Insurance companies have done a fine job adapting their offering with the precision of a Swiss army knife to meet consumer needs. The question is, “Have you? Do you know which solutions are the best fit to meet your clients’ needs based on their priorities? Do you know which type of riders you are selling?”
The genetic marker distinguishing LTC Extension of Benefit products from LTC riders and Chronic Illness riders is their ability to extend long-term care benefits beyond the death benefit. So, what’s in a name? Everything. Because if we don’t know what we are selling, then how can our clients know what they are buying?
 The onus is on you to know which type of Chronic Illness rider you are selling. What does the illustration say? What does the rider guide or rider F.A.Q. say? If you are unclear as to which type of rider you are selling, then on this website refer to the article, “Chronic Illness Riders, Don’t get Tangled Up in a Lawsuit.”
 Most LTC riders are filed in this manner, however there are a few companies that file LTC riders under IRS Code §101(g) paired with NAIC LTC Model Regulations. These products may be referred to as long-term care and have the same consumer protection requirements as do LTC Riders filed under IRS Code § 7702B.