How to provide premium health care planning advice

Posted on Posted in Financial Planning, Health and wellness, Health Insurance, News and Politics

This post is just an idea, an incomplete thought, a business observation with no clear direction or conclusion. I have no good answer to the headline.

For my entire 30+ year working career as a financial adviser I’ve focused on the theme of keeping your personal health in focus as a core of personal financial well-being. Everyone knows the cliche “If you have your health you have everything”. I’ve unfortunately spent too much time working with clients in the opposite corner: situations where chronic health problems become inseparable from personal financial hardship of otherwise successful people. The topic of medical bankruptcies tends to grab public attention but there many more less dramatic examples of how poor mental and physical health are tied to poor financial results. The plain truth is that despite the very best financial plans, a chronic health condition can wreck anyone’s financial security. It doesn’t matter who you are, who you work for, how wealthy your family may be; I’ve seen plenty of real like cases that demonstrate the direct link between declining health and loss of financial security.

This work led to my three decades of involvement with health care reform. I’ve been frustrated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) focus on insurance reform rather than systematic health care reform. Insurance is an incomplete solution. That was true before ACA and it is just as true now. For the 99% of us (excluding the upper class “one percenters”), having the best insurance will not prevent our financial collapse.

This leads to consideration of personal affluence. I work with affluent people simply because they are able pay for my service. Other financial advisers would say the same. Let’s be perfectly clear that the allocation of premium resources (like my attention as a personal financial adviser) is not because the affluent need or deserve or can benefit from good advice any more than ordinary working folks. Insofar as my work involves health care planning, it is clear that affluent people get better advice than working class individuals. Additionally, and perhaps even more important, affluent individuals are in a better position to act on advice when facing a health care decision. By definition, this creates a class-based differentiation of health care planning.

In 2010 I launched a project under the trademark name “OnlineNavigator” that was meant to provide premium advice on health care to the public; regular working class folks who recognized the need for better personalized information. The project never really took off. The concept was to offer brief consults for free and extended work for a fee. At the project’s peak (prior to adoption of the current name) I talked with or emailed as many as 50 people per day. I continue to offer the same service today but at a much reduced pace: perhaps 10 people per week. (Most of the user questions now are some version of the same issue discussed in this recent blog post). For 2016 OnlineNavidator added a technology to allow users to schedule telephone calls on demand and this option is just beginning to catch on

In September 2013 Yahoo Finance writer Rick Newman put out a questioning and critical review of OnlineNavigator. The article titled “Obamacare Could Be a Fraudsters’ Free-For-All” clearly set a negative tone for the project. Based on that newspaper review and armed with some inaccurate perceptions about ACA law, the Better Business Bureau then adopted a negative attitude about premium advice services (despite no indication of any consumer complaints). I had worked with and written for the BBB and considered them an ally in lobbying for health care reform since the early 1980s. This difference of opinion on how to provide premium advice to consumers put us on different paths and I ended my long term affiliation.

Unfortunately many of the issues in this field are still clouded by political beliefs. A person’s underlying belief of whether the Affordable Care Act was a savior or a curse seemed to dictate their slant on every other related issue. I try to stay away from that theoretical discussion to focus on providing advice under current realities. Yet I personally find few people who are able to analyse the current marketplace from a neutral stance.

Now in 2016 I notice that the market demand for premium health care planning advice is stronger than ever. I simply don’t know how to help meet that consumer need.

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