About Bernie Cohen


Bernie Cohen

“I will not sell what I would not buy!”

This statement sums up my philosophy about what to sell and what not to sell as an insurance agent.

I have been selling insurance for almost 30 years. For 30 years before that I brokered main frame computer systems. When main frames went the way of the dodo bird, I needed to find another line of work where my marketing talents could be put to good use. The product was different, but the principal was the same: Do the right thing for your customers and they will be your customers forever.

There are four main categories of products in the insurance business: Life Insurance, Long Term Care, Health Insurance & Annuities.

Annuities are really a financial product, which I do not sell. Insurance agents need to have some financial acumen, and some agents are terrifically knowledgeable. I am not one of them. I don’t do financial planning, so I don’t sell annuities. (Many financial planners will tell you that there are different ways to accomplish the same purpose as annuities, but which are far more effective.)

Once upon a time, Life Insurance was a very simple thing. You bought a policy for a specified amount of face value and paid for it until you died, at which time your heirs inherited the proceeds. This is called Whole Life. Its purpose is to replace lost income. That is part of Estate Planning. Today, there are dozens and dozens of different types of policies, all designed for different purposes. I don’t do estate planning, but I can advise on products for safe wealth accumulation, insurance for specified terms and for other purposes.

Once upon a time there were dozens of very fine, relatively small niche companies which did a fine job competing in Health Insurance plans at a reasonable cost. Then, along came Obamacare. Now there are five behemoths and an Exchange (the so-called marketplace), which limits choice and is much more expensive. Four of the five behemoths do not do individual health plans, which has further reduced competition. Fortunately, in Virginia, a sole proprietor can have a Group Plan, which affords a much wider choice.

A specialized form of Health Insurance is Medicare Supplements, of which there are two types: Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. There are Advantages (the Good) and Disadvantages (the Bad) to both, and then one must make a Choice (the Ugly!) (Both require having Part B, for which there is a cost -- there is no cost for Part A, you paid for that as part of your payroll taxes).

The newest of the four is Long Term Care Insurance (LTCi), which has been around only since the late 1970’s. At first it was a stand-alone product and was a blessing. Imagine... insurance not just to protect your loved ones in case you died too early, or to pay for your care if you got sick, but paid your expenses if you needed custodial care, either temporary or permanent. BUT (there’s always a but...), premium rates were calculated the same way as was life insurance, calculating in the industry standard lapse rate. Guess what? Surprise! These policies just didn’t lapse! Seems that people figured if they died, what happened after was not really their worry anymore, or if they got sick the system was duty bound to care for them, one way or the other. But, perish the thought if they lingered in infirmity, unable to stay gainfully employed, how could they afford to be taken care of? So rates just kept inching (sometimes galloping) up and woe to the premium payer (moi, amongst them), because they dare not lapse the policy.

If nothing else, insurance companies are continually creative. So, lo & behold, on the eighth day they created the hybrid plan; LTCi as a rider to life insurance. This is the way most LTCi is now sold. The first product was Lincoln Financial Money Guard, which was a single premium plan; not something affordable to the hoi polloi. But creativity reigned supreme... today there are dozens of hybrid plans, some of which are designed primarily as vehicles for LTCi with stable premiums. But virtually every Life Insurance policy has LTC considerations built into it. Even some term plans. (Annuities also have LTCi riders.)

So, that’s my story. There are a few client testimonials if you care to peruse them.