So the government announced its White Paper on social care.
This legislation is hugely significant because it begins to identify how much individuals need to cover themselves and how much the state should be willing to provide on top.
With local councils spending more and more on adult and social care it is not a subject we can afford to knock into the long grass. Within five years the budget will hit £20bn a year, and with an ever-ageing population the budget will only be stretched further. By 2050 there will be eight million people over 80 in this country. That's more than the population of Switzerland.
A year has now passed since the commission led by economist Andrew Dilnot published its report suggesting a cap on individual contribution at £35,000 for those with assets under £23,500. The Government's decision not to commit itself to these measures will only create greater uncertainty.
Yet for most of us retirement appears too far away to think about. We cannot even guarantee that we will retire at 65.
Long gone are the days of fiscal drag and budget surpluses. We must now contend with the language of cuts and compromise.
The stark reality of the place we are in is forcing politicians to acquiesce to the will of the markets.
The key question facing us is this: To what degree can the State continue to provide financial support, and to what extent does the individual need to take responsibility for their own financial well-being?
It is already clear that we can no longer expect the sort of cradle-to-grave welfare experienced by previous generations.
Is this now the time for the financial sector to step in and help both the State and individuals prepare for the unknown?
The industry does have its own reputational issues to overcome. Mis-selling scandals have poisoned the well for the whole personal protection market and created a great deal of mistrust from consumers.
Yet this should be an opportunity for the industry to redeem itself. By providing socially good and helpful products it will not only regain trust but open itself up to a wider market.
Currently only a tenth of the UK's working population are covered by income protection, yet two-fifths of us will be forced to take redundancy or time off due to ill-health at some point in our working lives. Those without savings must rely on the ungenerous cover provided by the state.
This is not about privatising welfare, but about allowing people to manage their risks and be more secure in the event of something unforeseen.
As the Government seeks to better manage the long-term risks among its own Incapacity Benefits claimants, the insurance industry's capabilities in undertaking medical assessments, providing early intervention and proactive rehabilitation mean that there is a need to transfer skills and expertise to how Government manages its own costs.
The whole market would be reformed.
This would help form a more sustainable and workable social contract, but ultimately provide important cover for today's 'squeezed middle'.
Income protection could and should become the norm for the UK. Is there a way we can encourage people?
The current gap in the UK for income protection is thought to be around £190 billion, whilst the gap in the life assurance market is a staggering £2.4 trillion.
Many people simply believe that the state will cover them or, rather optimistically, that they won't lose their job or get ill. This is not people being cocky, it is what they believe to be true.
Consumers need better financial education and must understand the worth of these products. It may not just cover them, but their whole family.
The industry needs to be able to engage with customers too. To abuse Arthur Miller for a moment, ever since the death of a salesman, the industry has struggled to connect with the public.
Today, many of the protection brands seem obscure and the products are complex and unfamiliar.
Very few consumers recognise products like critical illness cover or income protection. Nor can they identify the key product features.
Sending customers to confusing websites does not address anything. In fact, they may end up being mis-sold something and the industry returns to square one, something that is in the interest of no-one.
What people must remember is the position in the Eurozone is only making conditions more uncertain. The backlash against finance from many corners has the potential to create an unhealthy business and regulatory climate.
What's more, our banking sector is faced with another potentially lethal liquidity crisis, in which case all bets are off for future growth prospects.
There is no doubting the way the economics and politics of the land lie. Both now and in the future the insurance, and particularly the protection, industry must play a greater role in how society works - and how the economy functions.
We need a new vision for how the sector fits into the world.
Rather than living on a legacy, now is the time to start building a protection market which is fit for purpose in the 21st century.
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