The difficulties users of the federal health care website, HealthCare.gov, are experiencing is the subject of hearings on Capitol Hill and much gnashing of teeth among politicians and pundits, but what practical steps can financial advisors take to help affected clients?
“I’d take the old-fashioned approach,” says Dr. Katy Votava of GoodCare.com, a niche practice that handles health care issues for financial advisors and consumers looking to lower their coverage costs. “Pick up the phone and call the 800 number on HealthCare.gov and ask them who in your area is a ‘navigator.’”
“Every state,” Votava says in a phone interview with ThinkAdvisor, “has community organizations available to talk to people face to face. They’ll let you know who in your county and zip code to call and make an appointment with because right now none of [the exchanges] are working great. Call early and get on a list for an appointment.”
Some advisors may assume that health care issues are not part of their job, or perhaps that it only becomes an issue once their clients are old enough to become eligible for Medicare. But the expense involved and the difficulties clients encounter with health care at every stage of their lives make health care an issue that advisors should have on their radar, Votava argues.
(Check out Top 10 Cheapest States for Long-Term Care Costs on ThinkAdvisor.)
“First of all, know it’s an issue. Put it on your annual planning agenda; just start to ask about it and find out where your clients are at,” says Votava, who says she founded GoodCare 10 years ago when she noticed that no one was helping advisors help their clients with the unique planning issues surrounding health care.
“Second, plan for health care costs in retirement as a separate line item in the budget,” she advises, noting that health care inflation is two to four times CPI, and therefore assets meant to cover these costs should have a higher growth target.
“Third, know where to go to get some questions answered.”
That, Votava says, is where GoodCare comes in:
“We do training for advisors, we do webinars so that advisors know how to incorporate health care in planning and refer when they need to. We look at the total picture of a person’s health and medications to help them find the best coverage for the best price on an hourly basis.”
So if an advisor has a large segment of clients transitioning to Medicare or under-65-year-olds who are seeking coverage on the Obamacare state exchanges, the fee-for-service consulting firm will speak to the group or produce webinars that help clients know how to shop for coverage.
“More and more advisors are saying, ‘Wow, that’s a real value-add for my clients,’” she says.
Advisors who thinks that Medicare alone, and not Obamacare, are issues for clients, should think again, the GoodCare founder says.