The market for health insurance advice (revisited)

Yesterday a peer in a closed online business discussion group asked me about the viability of health insurance advice and this triggered a recount of my prior experience in this field and a reexamination of my conclusion on the topic.

There is actually quite a history behind my conclusion that health insurance advice is not a viable free-standing area of a professional practice. Here is the short version of my story.

Many years before ACA I talked to over 30,000 people about their health insurance over several decades dating back to the 1980s through my ownership of Medsave and OnlineAdviser brands. (Since then I sold Medsave). Because of this work I was even invited to testify before Congress at one point. Someone at the White House was a subscriber and frequent visitor to my blog in the early days of ACA (the White House has its own DNS that is easy to identify in web visitor logs but I don’t know the technical details of how this is possible). Back in those early days of ACA I was hired as an occasional webinar speaker with the help (referrals) and implied endorsement of NJCPA but these were one-time speaking events hosted by larger organizations not my own. I suspect that will be the same next year after the next round of related legislation passes. But making money on the entry level speaking circuit is no easy task as I’m sure people in the public speaking field can confirm. (At one time I had interest in professional public speaking but that is no  longer the case).

In 2013 I worked on training programs for ‘navigators’ – the new government-created hybrid type of enrollers who were not advisers and not agents. I was active in that community but found it generally unprofessional and unrewarding. IMO the navigator industry was more interested in tapping into government grants than evolving as a profession.

I tried to take the concept further by trademarking the “OnlineNavigator” as an independent service and offering service though the web site I tested the platform by offering both free and premium level service. Yahoo Finance’s high profile journalist Rick Newman did an investigation with the premise that charging for this service was a scam on consumers. BBB tended to agree (even though I had worked with BBB for decades on both their health advocacy and internal member health plans and the person doing the investigation was ignorant of ACA law). I was furious and vocal in my criticism. See…/obamacare-could-fraudsters… and…/.

More recent industry information shows that many accountants and financial advisers have a few people who wish to hire them for health care planning advice. But the health insurance advisory field is not well established and certainly there is no large market for this service. Health care planning fits best as part of multi-generational estate planning, a niche service that has become known as a ‘family practice’.

My conclusion is that health care planning should be core and central to our overall business and personal financial planning (which is exactly what I do and the core distinction that separates my brand from other CPAs) but it is silly as a business model and ineffective to the consumer to offer it as a stand-alone service.


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