“Two-thousand four-hundred and nine.” Not only can Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, CFP, recall precisely how many pages are in her copy of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, she claims to have read each one of them.
What motivated McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla., to plow through the controversial healthcare reform law cover to cover? The same thing that drove Carol Skorupan-McNeill, CPA, PFS, CFP, an advisor with Ameriprise Financial in Middleton, Wisc., to make a point of attending “just about every Affordable Care Act conference and webinar that’s gone on since May of last year,” and that prompted David M. Anthony, CFP, RMA, to augment his wealth management and finance expertise by securing a license to sell health insurance.
What McClanahan, Skorupan-McNeill and Anthony, principal at Anthony Capital in Broomfield, Colo., share is a professed drive to help their clients make sense of the complex, unpredictable, and sometimes consternating health insurance landscape created by federal policies such as the ACA.
As time-consuming as it has been for each to build their ACA expertise, as tedious as reading a couple thousand pages of legalese or enduring hour upon hour of PowerPoint presentations about the new healthcare law may seem at times, the three advisors are unanimous in the conviction that their investment will provide a solid return, not only for their clients, but also for themselves and their practices. For in the process of helping people evaluate their health insurance choices in a way few other advisors can, they’re not only building trust and strengthening relationships, they’re differentiating themselves competitively and creating opportunities to generate new business.
“A good financial advisor does a certain amount of paying it forward,” says Skorupan-McNeill. And as the following profiles illustrate, paying it forward can pay off.
ER doc turned financial planner McClanahan may well be one of the few financial professionals — indeed, one of the few human beings outside government circles — to have read the entire text of the ACA, let alone to actually own a copy of the statute.
McClanahan, whose niche practice focuses on insurance, estate, tax and investment planning for about 75 clients, roughly two-thirds of whom are physicians, says she dove headlong into educating herself on the law “because it’s important for me to understand what the health insurance landscape is for my clients.”
As busy as she has been helping clients and their families make health insurance choices in the Obamacare era, she’s spent even more time advising her physician clients — many of whom are small business owners themselves — on how best to deal with the new law. It’s all part of the holistic planning services she offers clients, by whom she’s compensated on a retainer (fee) basis.
That healthcare work with clients “really pays itself forward,” she says. “We want to be a firm that other firms want to emulate, and part of that is doing something that comes from the right place.”
The extra strategic traction that her ACA expertise provides isn’t lost on McClanahan either. That expertise is helping define and differentiate her and her 10-year-old firm. “It’s good for planners to grow their business by developing some kind of niche for themselves,” she observes. “In our case, it’s healthcare. Clients see me in the press all the time talking about this stuff, which helps build our credibility and reputation. Between the word-of-mouth we get from the media and from clients, and the constant incidental marketing that provides, we don’t need to do any formal marketing, and we still have an eight-month-long client waiting list.”
From a networking and referral standpoint, the many speaking engagements that have resulted from being well versed in the ACA haven’t hurt either, she says. “I get invitations to speak all the time — some paid, some unpaid — from professional groups, business groups, and other organizations.”
Being an expert in the field brings extra responsibility, including an obligation to keep abreast of ongoing healthcare policy developments so she can keep her clients and her audiences informed. To do so, she relies on resources such as the Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org) and Health Affairs (healthaffairs.org) websites, and of course, the Federal Register, where she can sate her appetite for legalese.
Registered rep with a wrinkle