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FROM PROSPECT TO CLAIMANT (a disability story)

Lawrence Ian Geller.

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When we meet our prospects we talk with them, at great length, in the hope that we can get them to understand the extent to which they are exposed to the risk of disability, and thus the possible loss of not only their incomes, but also their business or professional practice. Although many can, in principal, understand the magnitude of these risks, few can appreciate what such a disability will mean to them.

Such was the case with one of our clients who found himself on claim. When we first met with him in the mid 1980's he had a very small individual disability policy ($1,500 / month for partial or total with a zero day Qualification Period)) plus a moderate amount of insurance with his association group ($1,700 / month for partial of total with a 30 day Q.P.) plus a moderate amount of insurance with his partnership's group long term disability ($5,000 / month for partial or total with a 180 day Q.P.). Neither he, nor anyone else with the partnership had done any co-ordination of their benefits. In fact, he didn't even know how much disability insurance he had.

So we did the work for him. Along the way we upgraded his partnership's L.T.D. plan (to $10,000 / month for partial or total with a zero day Q.P.) and integrated the L.T.D. with individual policies for all of the partners and employed professionals in the firm. We also insured most of them for their loans, their deferred income tax liabilities and reinsured their R.R.S.P. contributions against disability.

Early in 1994 he called to ask to meet with me. He had discovered that he was ill, and that it was just a question of time before he was unable to work. In the meanwhile, he was already losing a great deal of time to the torrent of tests needed to determine the nature of his problem. In addition, the strain was beginning to tell on him and he was losing time at work to the worry created by his medical condition. In fact, after talking for some time, he admitted that most days he just went to work, shut the door, and sat there thinking and worrying. He wanted to know if he was covered.

Fortunately he was. We had replaced his association plan with a great deal of individual coverage (increasing his DI to $10,000 / month for total or partial with a zero day Q.P.). We had protected him. And we were prepared to administer the claim to make sure that he was paid.

All of this took several months. And each week he and I would talk. We talked about the tests. We talked about the doctors that he was seeing and about their unwillingness to tell him what was really wrong with him. We talked about the impact that the strain, and the diagnosis/prognosis would have on his family. We talked about his relationship with his partners and his clients. We talked about his future and what he wanted for his wife and daughters.

And all of this was part of what we considered our job to be. We aren't psychologists, but we do know how to ask questions (see The Broad Concept by S. Sheldon Taerk and Talking to the Number Crunchers by Don Poole) and how to listen to our clients concerns and aspirations.

And we may have helped beyond his expectations. We certainly helped to make him far more comfortable about his finances. He knew that he was able to pay his bills, his taxes and his loans, without regard to his ability to work. He knew that his R.R.S.P. would be self-completing. He knew that, when he died from this condition (and it was a very strong possibility), his family will be taken care of. And all of this made it easier for him to deal with his physical problems.

And he wasnít alone. We deal with each of our disabled clients in the same way. Value added is a big part of our business and we have incorporated that into our practice. Just selling the insurance isn't enough. A disabled client has enough to worry about without also having to worry about satisfying the requests of an insurance company for information and forms.

The spin-off is that we get more referrals from disabled clients than we get from anyone else.

Believing in insurance is a lot of the reason for this. Someone who buys from us obviously believes in insurance. Someone who has bought, and who has also been paid under the contract, really believes in insurance. And they are willing to tell everyone who they talk to about the great work that we have done for them.

The business doesn't roll in (but it would be nice), but this is a lovely supplement to our normal prospecting. It is great to get a 'phone call, out of the blue, from someone who has been talking to a claimant and who wants to buy coverage from us. It reinforces our satisfaction with what we do.

We don't expect this to happen. That isn't why we spend so much of our time with claimants. We feel that the administration of claims is a big part of our "contract" with our clients. It is part of what they have paid us to do (via the commissions which we received for selling the insurance). It is part of the service which they require, and we provide it willingly.

Much of the time claims are straightforward. There is little that we have to do but reassure the claimant and submit the forms. On other occasions the claims are much more complicated and we have to debate the validity and amount of the claim with the insurer. We have to, in fact, prove that the claimant is entitled to be paid under the contract. And each time that this happens we become a little more disappointed with the insurers. We know that claims control is important. We know that it is the only way to keep costs down. But often we feel that the client has been lost in the paperwork. So a lot of what we do is to remind the insurer that the claimant is a person who has been paying premiums for protection against loss. We then demonstrate the amount and nature of the loss, and we pray that the insurer will understand. Most of the time they do.

Admittedly some insurers are better than others, but all of them are well intentioned, and they will pay once they understand why they have to.

The client in this case died in the spring of 1996. His family are able to go on with their lives and he would be proud of what they have since accomplished. All of his daughters are university educated. One is still in school and the others have careers. His wife is able to keep the lifestyle that he had worked so hard for so long to build.

His partners still keep their coverages up to date. They have seen the benefit of having enough income to live in dignity when income is reduced during a disability. They have seen the benefit of not having to live off capital. They have seen the benefit of having sufficient life insurance to meet the needs of the survivors.

So get involved with your clients. Make sure that they understand that, as the great Ben Feldman said, insurance is a miracle of pen and ink, creating money when you need it most. Don't let your clients deal with this themselves.

Help them to get claims paid. In return they will provide you with more referrals than they ever have before. You won't regret the extra effort. We certainly don't.

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