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A Look at Level Life Insurance Commissions!

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Will It Ever Happen?

[By David K. Luke; MIM]

Investment Advisor

www.NetWorthAdvice.com

The current structure of the life insurance industry regarding cash-value life insurance policies with most major insurance companies is to reward the selling agent with the entire commission upfront on a newly issued policy.

The criticism to this practice is that this of course reduces the needed client-agent reviews and interaction and generates more “churning” and “flipping”.

Unscrupulous agents are tempted to sell clients another policy for another commission rather than encourage them to maintain and keep their existing policy, which most likely would have lower costs than any new policy considering the client was younger and most likely in better health with the existing contract. A model in which the insurance agent would have a financial incentive for their client’s continued patronage could create a win-win for both parties. We see this “pay as you” model currently operating successfully with wealth advisors and property/casualty agents, why not life insurance agents?

A Flawed Argument

There are some flaws to this argument. The reality is that the captive life insurance industry and their agents prefer this form of lump compensation. The claim is that selling an individual a life insurance policy (the ultimate intangible product) is hard work, and likewise the 70% – 105% of the first year premium is fair compensation for the efforts.

For existing agents to reduce their current income to a fraction of this commission upfront, but convert it into a trail over a multiyear period is actually quite distasteful. Therefore, this change will likewise not be initiated from the Insurance agent or insurance industry side unless other forces prevail.

Consumers [Even some Doctors] are Un-Aware

The drive by the consumer to change this up front lump form of compensation has not yet presented itself in full force. After all, why does the consumer care about how the agent is paid if the consumer is satisfied with the end result? One must acknowledge that the drive to reduce commissions and up front loads in the investment advisory business was driven by the consumer that insisted on lower fees and costs.

However, the relevant costs of a life insurance policy are not quite as obvious. Only by comparing a quote from different companies can a consumer compare costs, and even then it is unknown and not understood how the pricing mechanisms used by the insurance company work. The advent of non-agent sold policies however is decreasing the cost of life insurance (there is no big commission check written to the selling agent) and is hitting the radar of consumers. The consumer can notice this difference if the consumer compares the proposed agent sold policy premium with one sold directly by a financial institution such as USAA or AARP. These companies have a work force of sales people that are compensated primarily on salary. Likewise the company can structure more competitive pricing, and in effect offers a levelized cost (in place of commission) insurance product.

A Personal Opinion 

Mark Maurer CFP® of Low Load Insurance Services believes that a levelized compensation basis will not occur unless all the insurance companies were to go to such a plan all at once. If an agent can “pick and choose” he/she may use a “levelized compensation” policy when in a competitive situation, as such a policy should in theory make a policy more inexpensive. An agent would then use the higher “front-end” policy when there is a large up-front premium or in a scenario with limited competition.

Mark believes the answer to the whole argument is full disclosure. Both agents and home offices would not want the purchaser to know that 100% or more of their premium is going to sales costs and that products would then get better.

Assessment

The insurance industry has a powerful lobby in Washington. I believe that only market pressure will cause a change in this decades old insurance industry practice that has made many life insurance policies expensive and inefficient. Pricing from non-agent sold life insurance companies will be the impetus that drives the old-line Insurance companies to restructure their commissions to agents.

I remember the days of 8% load mutual fund commissions and minimum $60 dollar commissions on stock trades in the late 1980’s when I first became a stockbroker! That is an inflation equivalent of more than $130 a trade minimum commission. The current investing world would laugh at these costs [charges] today. When the consumer realizes, through full disclosure and outside competitive market pressures, that life insurance protection can be more affordable from other non-traditional channels, then the consumer will insist on a better, more affordable product. Then the big agent driven life insurance companies will have to change their commission structure. The transition is currently in process. Only time will tell now.

Editor’s Note: David K. Luke is currently enrolled in the online http://www.certifiedmedicalplanner.org chartered professional designation program.

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DrBicuspid.com is Biased against Dentists

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By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

Kathy Kincade, Editor-in-Chief of DrBicuspid posted the article, “Studies urge adding adult dental benefits to Medicare” on January 29, 2010.

http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=pmt&pag=dis&ItemID=303755

Ms. Kincade has always been generous to Delta Dental, making me suspect that she is less than unbiased.

Of Delta Dental

For example, at the end of the article, she devotes the last words about dental coverage for the elderly to an advertisement for Delta:

“Through a relationship with Delta Dental, the AARP offers the AARP Dental Insurance Plan, a dental PPO for AARP members that includes more than 100,000 dentist locations across the U.S. Delta also offers individual plans that are ‘particularly popular among retirees,’ according to Chris Pyle, director of public relations and community benefits at Delta Dental.”

Kincade closes her ad with a quote from Chris Pyle:

“Delta Dental has been a pioneer in developing affordable dental insurance options for those who do not have coverage through an employer. Retirees who take the time to do the math are finding individual and family dental insurance plans to be a wise option.”

How much does advertisement space on DrBicuspid go for these days?

Dr. Hamm                     

That is when Dr. Hamm got involved. He first requested that Chris Pyle document his claim:

”Prove it, Mr. Pyle. Let’s see your figures. Be sure to include comparison of the quality of care between PPO dentistry and fee-for-service dentistry. Do you think discounting fees – even for non-covered expenses – improves the quality of intricate care?”

When Dr. Hamm failed to get an immediate response, he went to the source. Here is what he had to say to the Editor in Chief of DrBicuspid:

——————————————————–

Kathy Kincade, pardon me for being straightforward, but at the risk of making it difficult for DrBicuspid reporters to obtain future interviews with Delta Dental PR professionals and ADA presidents, I proclaim that it is DrBicuspid readers’ rights – indeed Americans’ obligation – to challenge unsupported, self-serving statements that strategically discount facts in healthcare to protect stakeholders from principals (that would be dentists and patients).

DDPA Employee 

Chris Pyle, the on again – off again DDPA employee, isn’t the first Delta PR specialist who has told DrBicuspid outrageous statements before failing to answer the bell when challenged. A year ago, in an article by DrBicuspid Associate Editor Rabia Mughal, another shy and unaccountable Delta Dental PR professional poked his head up before diving for cover. Delta employee Ari Adler is reported to have said that “direct reimbursement to out-of-network dentists is a problem because it allows them to enjoy the benefits provided by the network without following cost guidelines and quality control measures of the network.”

http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=pmt&pag=dis&ItemID=301436

“We put our dentists thorough a credentialing process and provide quality assurance. That means if a dentist does a filling that should last a certain amount of time and it doesn’t, they have to fix it without charging the network or the patients.” 

– Ari Adler, communications administrator at Delta Dental of Indiana

Even after repeated requests for an explanation of Delta’s unprecedented guarantee of dental work done by Delta’s preferred providers, Ari Adler, a very popular master of Twitter who also teaches PR as a part-time job, declined to answer (So much for popularity on Twitter). I assume the PR and social network expert thinks that since he’s the Communications Administrator for such a powerful company, he’s protected from accountability. Besides, American dentists love and respect Delta Dental, don’t they?

Dr. Ron Tankersley

And; what about Dr. Ron Tankersley who is President of the American Dental Association. Is he also simply too good to talk with us?

————————————————

I may or not know Dr. John Hamm. I know Editor in Chief Kathy Kincade, though. She kicked me off of DrBicuspid over a year ago – the day before DrBicuspid consummated a contractual relationship with the ADABEI to receive the ADA seal of approval.

An Invitation

I should warn readers that I could be wrong about what may have been just an odd coincidence, so I invite you, Kathy Kincade, to discuss journalism ethics with me on Pruitt’s Platform. I trust someone will warn you, Kathy, of this invitation before it comes up on your first page in a Google search. My article “DrBicuspid, the ADA and split allegiances” from 2/15/09 is the 8th hit already. Now do you remember me?

http://community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/forum/topics/drbicuspid-the-ada-and-split

Assessment 

Come on out, Kathy. I’ve been waiting for this a long time. Come on out where everyone can see you defend Delta Dental. Please invite Brian Casey as well. He was the Editorial Director of IMV Publishing a year ago. Is he still around – policing the Internet?

Conclusion

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“Live Long and Prosper”

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

By Thomas A. Muldowney; MSFS, CLU, CFP®, CMP™

By Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™Senior Citizens

The words of Mr. Spock!

Recently, during my promotional speaking tour for the summer of 2009, I had the occasion to visit a few nursing and related homes for the elderly, sick, infirmed and aged. This harkened warm thoughts back to my time at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA as a young medical student. So, as a health economist and former certified financial planner, I recruited some folks and did some research on the domestic aging population to refresh my understanding of the facts and figures; especially in light of the current healthcare reform political debates [DEM].

Just the Facts  

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, there were almost 49 million people in the United States who were over age 60 in 2001. There are approximately 4 million people over the age of 85 living in the US and there are over 60,000 people older than age 100 estimated as of July 1st 2004. For every100 middle aged persons in the United States there are at present about 114 persons over the age of 65. This statistic will change as we move forward through time. In the year 2025, there will be about 253 people over age 65 for every 100 middle-aged people.

Enter the Baby Boomers

Beginning on January 1, 2006 at midnight and every 12 seconds thereafter for fifteen years, a baby boomer will have a birthday and cross over the age threshold of age 60. In the next 30 years, the 60+ age group will more than double, becoming 25% of the total population, and will have to be supported by a proportionately smaller workforce. Research published in June 2005 by AARP (based on data from 2002) estimates that: ‘‘In 2002, roughly $140 billion was spent on nursing home and home health care, with 24% of these costs being paid out of pocket” (O’Brien and Elias, 2004).

Aging Boomers

As the baby boom generation ages, the care needs will expand precipitously. Add to this, scientific and technological improvements in healthcare. These very same people will need more expensive healthcare and more expensive custodial care, and they will need it for an even longer period of time. Who will pay for this expanded need is not so clear. What is clear is that it will take money and lots of it to make these payments.

Money Preservation Variables

There are only three variables associated with the accumulation or preservation of money: ‘‘time, money and rate of return.’’ Time is reduced to the following two questions ‘‘How long until I will need my money?’’ and ‘‘How long will I live?’’ an uncertainty to be sure. Rate of return is either a function of the financial markets or the successful maintenance of a Long Term Care Insurance [LTCI] plan. Because of the volatility in the financial markets, the ‘‘money’’ question is equally as uncertain. In order to accumulate sufficient assets; an aging physician must ’tradeoff’ many other alternatives such as ’lifestyle.’

Assessment

What is certain is this—financial planning is important. More important is the implementation.

Conclusion

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Journal of the American Dental Association [Letter to the Editor]

ADA Image Tarnished?

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDSpruitt]

Dear Editor,  

This is a sincere letter which I am sure you will agree should be published in the October 2009 edition of the JADA. Today is July 19, 2009. I am allowing for the six weeks minimum time it requires for letters to appear in print following their selection for publication. It will be posted on the Internet immediately. In spite of this, I trust you will eventually agree to publish it in spite of your archaic rules. Otherwise, by November, history could show that the editor of the JADA arguably denied representation of dental patients’ interests at a most critical time in the history of the profession. That would be regrettable for your own professional reputation as well as for the JADA’s. As an ADA member, if my concerns are ignored, I will hold you publicly accountable for an explanation for a long time.

Public Laundry

From now on, we will agree to wash our laundry in public because otherwise it doesn’t always come clean. You can call the pressure I bring unprofessional if you want, but following the ADA News’ public exhibition of their shoddy ethics this week, it would be foolish to use my methods as an excuse to deny my access to membership. As I am certain you are aware, there were three revisions of “ADA/idm to phase out service” on ADA News Online (7/10, 7/13 and 7/16). I not only welcome a wide-open public discussion about ethics in journalism with representatives of the JADA, but I encourage it. We both know that the ADA needs clean laundry now more than ever before in its history.

ADA Business Enterprises, Inc.

For members who haven’t heard, the 2 ½ year old joint venture of our ADA Business Enterprises, Inc. (ADABEI) with Intelligent Dental Marketing – a Utah-based private business – fell apart in late spring of this year. Months later, our ADA leaders are still less than transparent with membership about what went wrong. I’ve been in business long enough to know that if mistakes by employees are not revealed and discussed, they are bound to happen again and again. And, it’s not like the leaders of the ADA were not warned. They just didn’t take heed. By late 2007, many knowledgeable people involved in the dental industry easily recognized the faults in the partnership between our non-profit professional organization and a for-profit Utah advertising company. In hindsight, anyone can see that ADA/IDM’s slogan, “Image is everything,” clearly betrays an attitude inconsistent with both the mission of the ADA and the Hippocratic Oath. Nevertheless, even the spirit of the slogan was regretfully adopted by the leaders of the ADA’s Business Enterprises, Inc. Now it is the image of the entire ADA that is suffering the damage.

ADABEI

I personally began questioning the accountability of the tricky ADA/IDM business model over two years ago when the profits from ADABEI had officials excited about avoiding the need to raise membership dues last year. Not unexpectedly, in the atmosphere of euphoria, nobody in Chicago wanted to acknowledge the concerns of a handful of alert members. We were cast aside as troublemakers. So how critical is the risk? With massive, unprecedented health care legislation imminent, this is the worst time imaginable for our stoic, image-conscious officers to lead us to nation-wide embarrassment.

Following the Money

The surrender to such temptations for leaders of non-profit organizations is not unprecedented. Do you know why the dues for the American Association of Retired People (AARP) have been kept so low? Not unlike the ADA, the non-profit AARP reaps profits from insurance policies and other products that its leaders sell to membership – even using misleading ads in AARP dues-supported publications. However, unlike dues money, vendor “kickbacks” don’t depend on accountability to members. A few years ago, the profits derived from agreements with vendors predictably became the lifeblood for AARP’s self-perpetuating bureaucracy – eventually influencing their lobbying efforts. Since non-profits like the AARP and the ADA are traditionally respected by lawmakers who like huge campaign donations, a non-profit entity’s lobbyists can be tempted to quietly represent vendors’ interests at members’ expense. Sometimes they get caught.

Lost Confidence

Almost a year ago, the AARP lost valuable member confidence when the organization was forced to suspend sales of “limited benefit” health plans backed by UnitedHealth Group (of Ingenix fame). Sen. Chuck Grassley said the plans which leave policyholders vulnerable to tens of thousands of dollars in costs were sold by the AARP to naïve and trusting members using misleading marketing tricks – not unlike those used in the ADA’s promotion of ADA/IDM. Sen. Grassley sent a detailed letter to CEO Bill Novelli demanding answers to questions about health insurance plans promoted to over a million dues-paying AARP members. Grassley told USA Today reporter Julie Appleby that “Insurance is supposed to limit your exposure to the potentially high cost of a serious illness and these plans do the opposite.” (Nov 7 2008).

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-11-07-aarp-insurance_N.htm

Is AARP-level accountability as good as it gets?

I say no. Attention ADA members – It is my opinion that our leaders are losing the control of our professional organization. The recent failure of ADA/IDM isn’t the first glaring sign of trouble in Headquarters. Over a year ago, the executive director, Dr. James Bramson, was suddenly fired with no explanation. In fact, then President Dr. Mark Feldman commanded that the reasons for the firing will not be disclosed. Obediently, ADA leaders have so far maintained firm control of the top secret information which if released could somehow endanger dental patients (?). Because Bramson’s severance pay came from my dues and not out of Dr. Feldman’s pocket, I think I deserve to know more details. Otherwise, this mistake could happen again and again.

The ADA/IDM disaster is also not the only ADABEI embarrassment I see on the horizon. It is my opinion that CareCredit is also showing signs of silent desperation. On July 9, the officials of the wholly-owned ADA subsidiary purchased an ad on dentalblogs.com titled “Press Release: CareCredit Adds 24-Month, No-Interest [sic] Payment Plan” (no byline).

http://www.dentalblogs.com/archives/administrator/press-release-carecredit-adds-24-month-no-interst-payment-plan/

Even though I approve of the benevolence in the idea of extending credit to those with worsening dental problems – especially during these hard financial times for patients – the anonymous CareCredit (ADA) representative who posted the ad failed to respond to my timely and important question: “If the Red Flags Rule is not delayed for the third time in three weeks, how will it affect those who offer Care Credit?”

Assessment

Nor did he or she respond to my follow up response on July 13. “On July 9 at 4:54 pm, I submitted a sincere question concerning how the Red Flags Rules will affect ADA members who sign up for CareCredit. Instead of posting it with the promise of an answer, you regretfully chose to censor an ADA member. Today, July 13, I have a second and third question: Why did you ignore my first one and who is your boss?”

Conclusion

So far, I’m still waiting for responses to all three questions. I trust you will treat my concerns with more respect, Editor.

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