As advisors know, clients tend to group major decisions about their financial future — including choices about healthcare — around certain significant milestones. The conclusion of a presidential election and the start of a new administration presents such a touchstone, as knowing which party will occupy the White House can provide greater clarity on our national policy direction.
With the Biden administration expected to place a high priority on healthcare, that will be especially true in 2021.
As many clients are taking a fresh look at their healthcare options, the current post-election period presents a key strategic opportunity for advisors to grow and strengthen their practices through a well-known — but frequently overlooked —service option: providing Medicare plans and related support.
To be sure, the Medicare landscape can be complex for advisors who are new to the space.
In addition to “original” Medicare, retiree clients also can choose from a wide range of Medicare Advantage plans, the insurance policies offered by private insurers that cover all Medicare-covered services.
Further, the amount of coverage retirees need can vary widely from household to household depending on their health status and financial resources.
With the U.S. population of 65-and-over prospects and Medicare “clients” growing rapidly, there is a significant need for advisors who can help retirees and pre-retirees navigate their Medicare options as part of a holistic service experience.
Advisors who develop a sophisticated understanding of the space and a service model to match will be well-positioned to recruit and retain retiree and pre-retiree clients over the next decade.
Unfortunately, many advisors have not received the support they need from their wealth management partner firms to properly address the Medicare opportunity.
Below are some of the key points advisors should consider regarding Medicare services, as well as the infrastructure and operational capabilities that wealth management firms should offer to effectively support advisors in this area.
Time to Broaden Perspective
Many advisors continue to see their mission solely as providing investment guidance, with healthcare-related advice being tangential to their service model.
With healthcare costs and the number of over-65 clients in the United States both experiencing massive growth, however, there is no way around it: No discussion about a client’s financial outlook will be complete if it excludes the question of how to pay for healthcare.
From this perspective, adding Medicare services to an advisor’s practice simply makes sound business sense.
Tactically speaking, such services can help increase wallet share among existing clients and avoid the need to refer clients to other providers — such as insurance brokers or even other advisors — if the incumbent advisor is unable to address the client’s healthcare planning needs. Such referrals often can expose an advisor’s client relationships to unnecessary competitive risk.
Surmounting Practical Barriers
In a tangible way, then, offering Medicare services is as much a protective, revenue-preserving move as it is a revenue-generating one. Yet at first glance, it might seem resource- and time-consuming for advisors to incorporate Medicare capabilities into their practices.
Affiliating with the right wealth management firm can go a long way on this front.
If the firm is committed to helping advisors truly differentiate themselves with Medicare capabilities and has already invested its time and capital in building the internal infrastructure, expertise and business relationships to facilitate and support advisors’ development of that expertise, it can make the ramp-up process much easier.
For example, some firms provide advisors with insurance support, but their offerings and expertise are focused on variable annuity sales, rather than on health insurance, which is a very different animal.
Firms that have been offering insurance solutions for years and have specific expertise in health insurance and Medicare will be in a better position to help advisors. This includes having knowledgeable personnel who can guide advisors through the education and qualifications needed to market insurance and a formal process for getting advisors up to speed on servicing clients’ Medicare needs.
Additionally, if the firm has an existing relationship with a leading insurance marketing organization (IMO) that contracts with multiple Medicare Advantage carriers, it can help in two ways.
First , it can avail its advisors of the IMO’s help and expertise in training and certifications, and second it can allow them to benefit from the more favorable pricing the organization commands with insurance providers.
A Time to Reset
As the country takes stock in the wake of the election, many retiree and pre-retiree clients will also be re-examining their healthcare planning.
Providing Medicare services can add substantial value to advisors’ existing offerings. The cost of healthcare is an integral part of the financial picture for retirees, and health needs — whether expected or unexpected — have the potential to derail the best-laid financial plans if clients don’t have the right coverage in place.
At the same time, advisors, if they affiliate with a firm that has the infrastructure and know-how to effectively support Medicare services, can expand and protect their businesses by adding this capability.
If they are not already offering Medicare services, advisors should take this opportunity to seriously weigh the benefits.
Mark Contey is Senior Vice President of Business Development for LaSalle St., a family of firms comprising an independent broker/dealer, an SEC-registered investment advisor and a provider of annuity and insurance products.