A Brief Look at Level Life Insurance Sales Commissions

Of Interest to All Insurance Agents

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By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™

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According to colleague David K. Luke MIM, MS-PFP, CMP™ the current structure of the life insurance industry regarding cash-value life insurance policies with most major insurance companies is to reward the selling agent with the entire commission upfront on a newly issued policy. The criticism to this practice is that this of course reduces the needed client-agent reviews and interaction and generates more “churning” and “flipping”. Unscrupulous agents are tempted to sell physician-clients another policy for another commission rather than encourage them to maintain and keep their existing policy, which most likely would have lower costs than any new policy considering the client was younger and most likely in better health with the existing contract. A model in which the insurance agent would have a financial incentive for their client’s continued patronage could create a win-win for both parties. We see this “pay as you” model currently operating successfully with wealth advisors and property/casualty agents, why not life insurance agents [personal communication]?

There are some flaws to this argument. The reality is that the captive life insurance industry and their agents prefer this form of lump compensation. The claim is that selling an individual a life insurance policy (the ultimate intangible product) is hard work, and likewise the 70% – 110% of the first year premium is fair compensation for the efforts. For existing agents to reduce their current income to a fraction of this commission upfront, but convert it into a trail over a multiyear period is actually quite distasteful. Therefore, this change will likewise not be initiated from the Insurance agent or insurance industry side unless other forces prevail.

The drive by the consumer to change this up front lump form of compensation has not yet presented itself in full force. After all, why does the consumer care about how the agent is paid if the consumer is satisfied with the end result? One must acknowledge that the drive to reduce commissions and up front loads in the investment advisory business was driven by the consumer that insisted on lower fees and costs.

However, the relevant costs of a life insurance policy are not quite as obvious. Only by comparing a quote from different companies can a consumer compare costs, and even then it is unknown and not understood how the pricing mechanisms used by the insurance company work. The advent of non-agent sold policies however is decreasing the cost of life insurance (there is no big commission check written to the selling agent) and is hitting the radar of consumers. The consumer can notice this difference if the consumer compares the proposed agent sold policy premium with one sold directly by a financial institution such as USAA or AARP. These companies have a work force of sales people that are compensated primarily on salary. Likewise the company can structure more competitive pricing, and in effect offers a levelized cost (in place of commission) insurance product.

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Textbook Order: https://www.routledge.com/Risk-Management-Liability-Insurance-and-Asset-Protection-Strategies-for/Marcinko-Hetico/p/book/9781498725989

For example, Mark Maurer CFP® of Low Load Insurance Services believes that a levelized compensation basis will not occur unless all the insurance companies were to go to such a plan all at once. If an agent can “pick and choose” he/she may use a “levelized compensation” policy when in a competitive situation, as such a policy should in theory make a policy more inexpensive. An agent would then use the higher “front-end” policy when there is a large up-front premium or in a scenario with limited competition. Mark believes the answer to the whole argument is full disclosure. Both agents and home offices would not want the purchaser to know that 100% or more of their premium is going to sales costs and then products would then get better [personal communication].

The insurance industry has a powerful lobby in Washington. Only market pressure will cause a change in this decades old insurance industry practice that has made many life insurance policies expensive and inefficient. Pricing from non-agent sold life insurance companies will be the impetus that drives the old-line Insurance companies to restructure their commissions to agents.

Insurance agents also remember the days of 8% load mutual fund commissions and minimum $60 dollar commissions on stock trades in the late 1980’s! That is an inflation equivalent of more than $130 per trade, minimum commission, today. The current investing world would laugh at these costs [charges] today. When the physician-consumer realizes, through full disclosure and outside competitive market pressures, that life insurance protection can be more affordable from other non-traditional channels, then s/he will insist on a better, more affordable product.

https://images.routledge.com/common/jackets/crclarge/978148224/9781482240283.jpg

Textbook Order: https://www.amazon.com/Comprehensive-Financial-Planning-Strategies-Advisors/dp/1482240289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418580820&sr=8-1&keywords=david+marcinko

Ultimately, the big agent driven life insurance companies will have to change their commission structure. The transition is currently in process. Only time will tell now [personal communication].

Your thoughts are appreciated.

THANK YOU

***

How to Protect Your Interests in Insurance Claims

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Don’t Be a Victim Twice

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPHurricane Sandy attacked the East Coast, did her worst, and disappeared. Yet cleaning up the mess she left behind will take months and even years.

When Disaster Strikes

Even dealing with damage from much smaller disasters can take a long time. As an example, in July 2011 a severe storm with baseball-sized hail moved through southern Rapid City. It only took nature a few minutes to flatten gardens, beat up vehicles, and damage buildings. It will probably take until the second anniversary of the storm to repair all the damage to our house.

Such a delay isn’t unusual. The most common reasons are finding a contractor and negotiating with your insurance company.

Rapid Response

Moving quickly to report a claim after a disaster is important. In fact, you should probably call a contractor even before you call your insurance agent. Insurance companies are fast to respond to disasters and easily move adjusters in from other areas. Local, credible contractors, on the other hand, fill their schedules fast. We spent hours on the phone to get bids from beleaguered roofers, painters, and carpenters.

Low Balls

These bids were worth our time, because they showed us that the initial repair estimates from our insurance company were low—usually by 50% to 66%.

For example, our roof had cedar shake shingles. The company’s replacement estimate was for much cheaper asphalt shingles. Estimates to repair our siding and deck were also low. It took us 15 months to come to an agreement on the cost of replacing the deck. The work probably won’t be done until summer of 2013.

Switching Gears

Does this difficulty in getting a full settlement mean it’s time to switch insurance companies? Certainly, I thought so more than once during the negotiating process. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. It’s important to remember that getting compensation from an insurance company is just business. And good business means not necessarily accepting the first offer. Negotiating will take time and effort, but it eventually should get you full compensation.

Competing Claims Interests

When you file a claim, you and your insurance company have competing interests. The company is not your advocate. You want as much money as possible from them for repairs, while they want to repair your damage for the lowest cost. There’s nothing out of place with either motivation.

Once I understood that the insurance company and I were natural adversaries, not friends, it helped me feel less victimized and more empowered. While getting the money we needed to make the repairs certainly took time and perseverance, the company readily acquiesced when we presented the facts. After all, their best interest also included keeping us as customers. We did not have to threaten a lawsuit or go to court.

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Assessment

Certainly, when it’s time to renew my home insurance I will ask my agent to investigate other companies. That’s just business. However, I won’t change companies just because I had to argue with this one.

Understanding your role in negotiating an insurance claim helps bring a healthy perspective to your relationship with any service provider. Unless they are a fiduciary to you (like an attorney or doctor, or some a fee-only financial advisors], they have no responsibility to look out for you. Someone selling you something has no duty to put your interests before theirs. Protecting your interests is your duty and yours alone.

More:

Conclusion

When a natural disaster strikes, whether it’s a hail storm or a hurricane, we are certainly victims of nature’s whims. When it’s time to clean up the mess, though, we’re not victims. We’re our own advocates, with the responsibility and ability to look out for our own best interests.

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How to Select a Property and Casualty Insurance Agent

Eschewing Conventional Wisdom

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™]

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In my travels, and various consulting engagements, I am often asked how to select a good PC agent. As a former insurance agent myself, I know what is required for my medical colleagues. And, there is no doubt that a good property and casualty (P&C) agent is needed to protect the physicians’ home and medical practice business entity, etc.

No Dedicated Agents

The P&C agent should not be dedicated to a single company, but have an array of carriers with which the home or practice can be placed.  I opine thusly even though most insurance companies will offer a discount if you place multiple coverage with them.

Select “Best of Breed”

However, this may not be as beneficial as insuring each need with a specialist. So, do not hesitate to place different types of coverage with different insurers. Selecting the “best of breed” may be more work; but it also may be more beneficial when a claim is made.

Assessment

Remember, by agency law, and definition, P&C agents are not fiduciaries.

Conclusion

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Is it Time for Level Life Insurance Commissions? [A Voting and Opinion Poll]

Ending the Churn-em’ and Burn-em’ Ethos 

By Staff Reporters

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Some insurance agents are currently noting that life insurance ownership is almost at an all time low because of the economy. And, some have even prompted suggestions that a “level commissions” payout would reverse the trend.

The argument goes something like this:

If agents were compensated 10% a year over a 10-year period rather than 100% in year one, annual reviews would increase substantially. The long-standing current method is not geared toward ongoing service, but to “churning” and “flipping”. Clients get better service from their property/casualty agents and wealth advisors because these practitioners have a financial inventive for their clients’ continued allegiance.

What do you think? Please vote and be sure to add your comments below.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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How Physicians Select Risk Management Advisors

More Difficult than Ever Before

By Brian J. Knabe MD, Certified Medical Planner

www.SavantCapital.com

Historically, the term “risk management” has brought to mind one subject for the practicing physician – medical malpractice.  Unfortunately, physicians today face a multitude of other risks which may be more insidious and daunting than malpractice.  It is important to recognize these risks, and to have the appropriate procedures and policies in place to mitigate the risks.  These risks come from the federal government, state government, insurance companies, patients, employees, and even prospective employees.  Some risks, many unique to small businesses and medical practices, include the following:

  • Medicare recoupment risk – challenges to coding and subsequent billing by the physician.
  • Medicare fraud.  Numerous laws can be used by the federal government to go after the physician, including the Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Fraud and Abuse Statute, the RICO statute, and the Federal False Claims Act.  The recently enacted Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act aims to save money by increasing funding for anti-fraud efforts.
  • Insurance fraud.  An inquiry from Medicare to look for fraud in a physician’s practice is often followed by similar efforts by insurance companies.
  • The HIPPA Act of 1996 creates new definitions and penalties to use against the physician.
  • Self referral risks.  Federal regulations in this area include the Medicare Anti-Fraud and Abuse Statute, the Medicare Safe Harbor Regulations, and the Stark Amendment.
  • Federal agency risks.  These include regulations from the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA), Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement agency (DEA), and even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Anti-trust risks.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) formulate regulations in this arena.
  • Managed care contractual risks.  Most managed care contracts require the individual physician rather than the professional corporation to sign the contract, thus placing the physician’s personal assets at risk.
  • Medical malpractice risks.  Although the vast majority of claims are paid by the insurance carrier, there can be other adverse consequences for the physician.  These include the risk of increased premiums, non-renewal of policies, and difficulty in getting replacement insurance.
  • Loss of income due to death or disability.  Most physicians recognize the importance of life insurance, but the medical professional is actually much more likely to lose income due to disability at some point in his or her career.

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The practicing physician should seek the advice of professionals with expertise in these areas.  Every practice should have an experienced attorney on retainer.  It is very important to seek advice from fiduciaries – experts who have no conflicts of interest and who can therefore act in the best interest of the client.  A Certified Medical Planner is such a fiduciary with training and expertise in these areas.

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It can be particularly challenging to find an insurance advisor with no conflicts of interest, as this industry is built upon product sales and commissions.  One such insurance advisor is Scott Witt, a fee-only insurance advisor with Witt Actuarial Services (www.wittactuarialservices.com).

Others can be found with an internet search for “fee only insurance advisor”.

Assessment

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Conclusion

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On Employer Based Health Insurance Premium Costs

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One Client’s Comparative Expense Analysis Experience

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA

[Publisher-in-Chief]

Hospital Costs

A colleague posted an interesting essay recently on his blog The Incidental Economist. Austin Frakt PhD is a health economist with an educational background in physics and engineering. After receiving a PhD in statistical and applied mathematics, he spent four years at a research and consulting firm conducting policy evaluations for various federal health agencies. Here is the post.

Link: http://theincidentaleconomist.com/index.php?s=Kaiser%2FHRET+

The Survey

In his essay, Austin reported these figures from a cited survey:

“The 2009 Kaiser/HRET employer health benefits survey found that employees pay 17% of the $4,824 annual premium for single coverage and 27% of the $13,375 annual premium for family coverage (all average figures)”.

Case Report Model

So, if the survey is correct, it got me thinking about how much a long-time client paid as a doctor-employer, when she last practiced in a certain medical group back in 2000. And, especially about how much she would be paying today if still in business with the same group. This brief case-report with comparative expense analysis [CEA} is the up-shot.

My Client’s Story

Her health insurance premium costs including doctor-partners, was about $13,500 annually, per employee. This was a sunk cost, but an above the AGI line deductible business expense to the practice and entirely employer paid as a fringe benefit [all valid corporate expenses are deductible as there is no AGI line on a business tax return]. She and her three partners were both very magnanimous to their employees, and naïve. They became virtually insolvent a few years later and were bought out by a larger medical group for a pittance. Today, they are grunt employee doctors in a 25 plus physician group practice.

My Numbers

Now, if I crunched the numbers correctly as an citizen economist, on my HP12-C calculator, using health insurance inflation rates of 3%, 5% and 7% respectively for a decade [low], she would be now be paying somewhere between $18,143 and $21,990 and $26,556 in 2010 [dangerously assuming linear economics]. Each of her 15-18 employees at the time was a female, head of household, with 1-4 dependents of their own; no singles. Her own family unit included a professional husband and young daughter in private elementary school. They were the most health conscious of the bunch.

Her Situation

So, she left the group in 2000, and we transitioned her to solo private practice with a HD-HCP indemnity-styled [better] plan that pays 100% after her $5,000, and later $10,000, deductible. She has 100% prescription drug coverage, no OB coverage and no networks, second opinions or pre-certification requirements. Today, she has more than $50-K in the savings portion [cash account earning 3.5%, tax deferred].

Her Reaction

As she just turned age 55, there as was significant jump in her family coverage premiums from about $1,350/quarter to $1,650/quarter! Of course, her carrier offered a ten percent discount to $1,485 quarter, when she pitched a fit, and completed a health and wellness survey which “they” verified.

My Intervention

So, I used my “insider” knowledge as a doctor, financial advisor and insurance agent and went back to the open market place for coverage. Her new direct halth insurance coverage [she used a non-fiduciary insurance agent intermediary previously] is better, and her premium is only $1,248/quarter or about $5,000 annually to age 58. Bye, bye insurance agent. Link:  www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

Now, if we use the non-inflated [a conservative unlikely scenario] 27% employee premium contribution for the present value projections of $18,143 and $21,990 and $26,556 today – each employee would be responsible for about $4,898, $5,937 and $7,170 respectively [please again recall both our conservative nature and the repeat danger of linear economic assumptions].

Where Did the Money Go?

So, under the 3-5% health insurance inflation scenario, my client would have been contributing about $5,417 for her heath insurance. This is very close to what she is annually paying now! So, where did the much larger employer’s contribution portion of the money go? Probably to overhead costs, marketing, advertising, sales and commissions, HR, high-risk pool premiums, ie … down the drain?

What did my client do with the monetary difference? Well, she paid all family doctor and drug bills that were under the high-deductible threshold; some went to her annual family health club membership dues, covered extras and various “wants and nice-to-haves”, and the remainder of course, went into her savings account portion. In other words … not down the drain.

There is an additional $1.000 “catch up” savings provision for those over age 55. She paid it – to herself.

The Road Ahead – More Expensive

I informed my colleague-client that there likely will be another big premium jump when she turns 58, 60 and age 62 respectively. We will report back to ME-P readers on market competition and related health insurance pricing at that time, ceteris paribus.

Assessment

Does the competitive open marketplace find a way to reduce HI costs– sooner or later? High Deductible HealthCare Plans were launched as a temporary pilot project in 1997 and initially sold poorly. In the past few years however, there has been a boom in HD-HCPs and the pilot project was made permanent. What other HI innovations may be in the future?

Of course, President Obama was against them in his original healthcare reform plan. But, now in his weakened political position, they seem acceptable to him. So, go figure. Utility depends on political winds, not economic efficacy, I suppose. 

Conclusion

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New Regulations Needed For Financial Planners?

So Says New Coalition

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]

The Financial Planning Coalition [FPC] is pushing for a law that would require anyone calling themselves a financial planner to meet certain ethical and educational standards and to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC].

About the FPC

According to its’ website, the Financial Planning Coalition is a collaboration of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board), the Financial Planning Association® (FPA), and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) to advise legislators and regulators on how to best protect consumers by ensuring financial planning services are delivered with fiduciary accountability and transparency. Americans have grown leery of those who work in financial services.

Currently, financial planning (the process of advising individuals and families across a range of personal finance topics in addition to investment advice) is unregulated as a profession, resulting in major gaps in current laws. So, is it really a “profession” many ask – void of any significant barrier to entry?

The Financial Planning Coalition intends to work with Congress to produce legislation that puts the interests of clients first and enables consumers to identify a trusted financial adviser.

To learn more about the Financial Planning Coalition’s purpose and mission, click here to read, or download the Statement of Understanding [PDF].

SEC Wrong Oversight Agency?

According to this report in Financial Advisor magazine, an advertiser-driven trade journal:

the standards would be set by a public oversight board that would be funded by small registration fees paid by the financial planners, said Robert Glovsky, chair of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards during a conference call today. The CFP Board, as well as the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors makes up the coalition.

Exemptions

However, brokers and insurance agents would not be forced to register as financial planners, but those who held themselves out as financial planners would have to meet the required minimum competency and ethics standards or stop using the financial planner title.

Assessment

And so, as we have noted, written, preached and warned for more than a decade – anyone can call themselves a financial planner, or financial advisor; so beware medical colleagues.

More: http://www.fa-mag.com/fa-news/5314-new-regs-needed-for-financial-planners-coalition-says.html

NOTE: The fiduciary definitional standard conundrum was not even addressed in the article or by the committee, as far as I know. Moreover, note that SEC oversight was in place before, during and now after the Bernie Madoff scandal – so enough said about competency! www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. What do you think FAs, and CFPs®? Should all become an RIA or ERISA styled fiduciary? Or, will this be another CFP® lite fiasco?

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Disclaimer: I am a former certified financial planner and CEO of the online www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com program for fiduciary advisors working in the healthcare space.

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I Jealously “Shake my Fist” at Somnath Basu PhD

On CFP® Mis [Trust] – One Doctor’s Painful Personal Experience

[“So Sorry to Say it … but I Told You So”]

By: Dr David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]dem21

According to Somnath Basu, writing on April 6, 2009 in Financial Advisor a trade magazine, the painful truth is that many financial practitioners are merely sales people masquerading, as financial planners [FPs] and/or financial advisors [FAs] in an industry whose ethical practices have a shameful track record. Well, I agree, and completely. This includes some who hold the Certified Financial Planner® designation, as well as the more than 98 other lesser related organizations, logo marks and credentialing agencies [none of which demand ERISA-like fiduciary responsibility]. For more on this topic, the ME-P went right to the source last month, in an exclusive interview with Ben Aiken; AIF® of Fi360.com  

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The CFP® Credential – What Credential?

Basu further writes that stockbrokers and insurance agents who earn commissions from buying and selling stocks, insurance and other financial products realize that a Certified Financial Planner® credential will help grow the volume of their business or branch them into other related and lucrative products and services. After all, there are more than 55,000 of these “credentialed” folks. And, this marketing designation seems to have won the cultural wars in the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting – i.e., duped public; probably because of sheer numbers. Didn’t a CFP Board CEO state that its’ primary goal was growth, a few years ago? Can you say “masses of asses”, as the oft quoted Bill Gates of Microsoft used to say when only 2,000 micro-softies defeated 400,000 IBMers during the PC operating system wars of the early 1980’s. Quantity, and marketing money, can trump quality in the public-relations business; ya’ know … if you repeat the lie often enough … yada … yada … yada! Yet, as the so-called leading industry designation, the CFP® entry-barrier standard is woefully low. Moreover, the SEC’s [FINRA] Series #7 general securities licensure sales examination is not worth much more than a weekend’s study attention, even to the uninitiated.

insurance-book2

Easy In – Worth Less Out

In our experience, we agree with Basu and others who suggest that scores of lightly educated, and sometimes wholly in-articulate and impatient individuals are zipping through the CFP® Board of Standards approved curriculum in three to six months of online, on-ground, or “self-study”. But, that some can do so without a bachelor’s degree when they join wire-houses and financial institutions, which cannot be trusted to adequately train them, is an abomination. And, even more sadly, some of these CFP™ mark-holders, and other folks, believe they have actually received an “education” from same. Of course, their writing skills are often non-existent and I have cringed when told that, in their opinion, advertiser-driven trade magazines constitute “peer-reviewed” and academic publications. Incidentally, have you noticed how thin these trade-rags are getting lately? Much like the print newspaper industry, are they becoming dinosaurs? One agent even told me, point-blank, that his CLU designation was the equivalent of an “academic PhD in insurance.” This was at an industry seminar, where he thought I was a lay insurance prospect.

THINK: No critical thinking skills.

biz-book4

Education

There is another sentiment that may be applied in many of these cases; “hubris.” I mean, these CFP® people … just don’t know – how much they don’t know.”  The very real difference between training versus education is unknown to many wire-houses and FAs, isn’t it? And, please don’t get me started on the differences in pedagogy, heutagogy and androgogy. Moreover, it’s sad when we see truly educated youngsters become goaded by wire-houses into thinking that these practices are de-rigor for the industry. One such applicant to our Certified Medical Planner™ program, for example, had both an undergraduate degree in finance and a graduate degree in economics from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University – in my home town of Baltimore, MD [name available upon request]. He was told, in his Smith Barney wire-house training program, to eschew CMP™ accountability and RIA fiduciary responsibility, when working with potential physician and lay clients; but to get his CFP® designation to gather more clients. To mimic my now 12 year-old daughter; it seems that: SEC Suitability Rules – and – Fiduciary Accountability Drools. And, to quote Hollywood’s “Mr. T”; I pity the fools, er-a, I mean clients. But, T was an actor, and this is serious business.

cmp-logo1

Of CEU Credits and Ethics

Beside trade-marks and logos, we are all aware that continuing education, and a code of ethics, is another important marketing and advertising component of state insurance agents and CFP licensees. It’s that old “be” – or “pretend to be” – a trusted advisor clap-trap. Well, I say horse-feathers for two reasons. First, both my insurance and CFP® Continuing Educational Unit [CEU] requirements were completed by my daughter [while age 7-10], by filling in the sequentially identical and bubble-coded, multiple-choice, answer-blanks each year. Second, this included the mandatory “ethics” portions of each test. When I complained to my CEU vendor, and state insurance department, I was told to “enjoy-the-break.”  My daughter even got fatigued after the third of fourth time she took the “home-based tests” for me.  After I opened my big mouth, the exact order of questions was changed to increase acuity, but remained essentially the same, nevertheless. My daughter got bored, and quit taking the tests for me, shortly thereafter. She always “passed.”dhimc-book3

Thus, like Basu, I also find that far too many financial advisors are unwilling to devote the time necessary to achieve a sound education that will help attain their goals, and would rather sell variable or whole life products than simple term life, even when the suitability argument overwhelmingly suggests so, for a higher payday. We not only have met sale folks without undergraduate degrees, but also too many of those with only a HS diploma, or GED. Perhaps this is why a popular business truism suggests that the quickest way for the uneducated/under educated class to make big bucks, is in sales. Just note the many classified ads for financial advisors placed in the newspaper job-section, under the heading “sales.” Or, in more youthful cultural terms, “fake it – until you make it.”

Of the iMBA, Inc Experience

According to Executive Director Ann Miller RN MHA, and my experience at the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc:

“Far too many financial advisors who contact us about matriculation in our online Certified Medical Planner™ program – in health economics and management for medical professionals – don’t even know what a Curriculum Vitae [CV] is? Instead, they send in Million Dollar Roundtable awards, Million Dollar Producer awards, or similar sales accomplishments as resume’ boosters. It is also not unusual for them to list some sort of college participation on their resumes, and websites, but no school affiliation or dates of graduation, etc. And, they become furious to learn that we require a college degree for our fiduciary focused CMP™ program, and not from an online institution, either. The onslaught of follow-up nasty phone-calls; faxes and emails are laughable [frightening] too.”  

www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Assessment

More often than not, it is the financial institutions that FAs and CFP™ certificants’ work for that reward sales behavior with higher commissions, rather than salaries; which encourage such behavior and create the vicious cycles that are now the norm.

THINK: ML, AIG, Citi, WAMU, Wachovia, Hartford, Prudential, etc.

Note: Original author of Restoring Trust in the CFP Mark, Somnath Basu PhD, is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. We have asked him to respond further.

My Story: I am a retired surgeon and former Certified Financial Planner® who resigned my “marketing trademark” over the long-standing fiduciary flap. I watched this chicanery for more than a decade after protesting to magazines like Investment Advisor, Financial Advisor, Registered Rep, Financial Planner, the FPA, etc; up to, and even including the CFP® Board of Standards; to no avail. Feel free to contact me for a copy of a 43 page fax, and other supportive documentation from the CFP® Board of Standards – and their outsourced intellectual property attorneys – over a Federal trademark infringement lawsuit they tried to institute against me for innocent website errors placed by a visually impaired intern. Obviously, they disliked the launch of our CMP™ program. As a health economist and devotee of Ken Arrow PhD, I polity resigned my license, as holding no utility for me, to the shocked CFP Board. They later offered to consider re-instatement for a mere $600 fee with letter of explanation, to which I politely declined. Of course, my first thought after living in the streets of South Philadelphia while in medical school, during the pre-Rocky era, was to say f*** off – but I didn’t. Nevertheless, I still seem to be on their mailing list, years later. No doubt, the list is sold, and re-sold, to various advertisers for much geld. And, why shouldn’t they; an extra bachelor, master and medical degree holder on their PR roster looks pretty good. I distrust the CFP® Board almost as much as I distrust the AMA, and its parsed and disastrous big-pharma funding policies. Right is right – wrong is wrong – and you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time, especially in this age of internet transparency.

Shaking my Fist at Somnath … in Envy

And so, why do I shake my fist at Somnath Basu? It’s admittedly with congratulations, and a bit of schadenfreude, because he wrote an article more eloquently than I ever could, and will likely receive much more publicity [good or slings-arrows] for doing so. You know, it’s very true that one is never a prophet in his own tribe. Oh well, Mazel Tov anyway for stating the obvious, Somnath. The financial services industry – and more specifically – the CFP® emperor have no clothes! Duh!

ho-journal5

Good Guys and White Hats

Now that Basu’s article has appeared in Financial Advisor News e-magazine, the other industry trade magazines are sure to follow the CFP® certification denigration reportage, in copy-cat fashion. And, the fiduciary flap is just getting started. This is indeed unfortunate, because I do know many fine CFP® certificants, and non-CFP® certified financial advisors, who are well-educated, honest and work very diligently on behalf of their clients. It’s just a shame the public has no way of knowing about them – there is no white hat imprimatur or designation for same – most of whom are Registered Investment Advisors [RIAs] or RIA reps. For example, we know great folks like Douglas B. Sherlock MBA, CFA; Robert James Cimasi MHA, AVA, CMP™; J. Wayne Firebaugh, Jr CPA, CFP®, CMP™; Lawrence E. Howes MBA, CFP®; Pati Trites PhD; Gary A. Cook MSFS, CFP®, CLU; Tom Muldowney MSFS, CLU, CFP®, CMP™;  Jeffrey S. Coons PhD, CFP®; Alex Kimura MBA, CFP®; Ken Shubin-Stein MD, CFA; and Hope Hetico RN, MHA, CMP™; etc. And, to use a medical term, there are TNTC [too many, to count] more … thankfully!

Conclusion

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Updating the Doctor’s Business Insurance Portfolio

Most Medical Practitioners Lack Adequate Coverage

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

By Professor Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™

[ME-P Publisher and Managing Editor]dave-and-hope1

Good insurance coverage—especially property and liability insurance—is essential for private independent medical practices. And, malpractice insurance is a separate beast; altogether. But, far too often, experts from the Institute of Medical Business Advisors Inc. find that doctors sign standard “form” contracts, and review only the section in which premiums are discussed.

www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Overlooked Issues

Here, we outline some critical but frequently overlooked issues that financial advisors may want to discuss with their doctor clients; or that physicians might consider want to consider themselves:

• Coverage: Most property is insured for the appraised value or cost. The appraisals however, are often less than the actual cost of replacement. Rather, the office and other critical property should be insured for their full replacement or cash value (replacement cost less depreciation). Replacement value has little relationship to typical insurance valuations.

• Upgraded values: When replacing old instruments or equipment, medical practices are purchasing “next generation” equipment. But in many cases, the proceeds from replacement value insurance do not cover the full purchase prices of upgraded equipment. Doctors can protect themselves against shortfalls in replacement costs with policy riders known as functional replacement endorsements. In essence, when the old equipment is superseded, functional replacement allows for the costs of purchasing the available, upgraded equipment.

• Business interruption insurance: Medical practices need adequate income protection in the event of a fire or other disaster. Business interruption insurance provides doctors with income disaster relief. With this type of insurance, revenue projections must be made and updated periodically. It is advisable to enlist a qualified insurance broker, agent or counselor because the language in this type of policy can be difficult to decipher.

• Business continuation: Medical practice business interruption insurance ends 30 days after the property is replaced. However, it may take doctors much longer to get back to business as usual. An extended period of indemnity rider allows businesses additional time for disaster recovery. The additional period is often a full year.

• Off-the-premises insurance: Sometimes medical office property damage can be caused by a problem off the premises, such as a power disruption. If a practice does not have off-premises direct damage coverage, it will not be insured for damage to equipment caused by the loss of electricity, which may, in turn, have been cause by a storm. So it’s often helpful to insure for this type of damage—as well as loss of water and telecommunications.

• Exclusions: Insurance policies often contain strange exclusions: Property is damaged because a boiler explodes, but boiler malfunction is excluded from coverage in the property insurance policy. Many business owners and doctors are unaware of this. All policies should be carefully reviewed for exclusions.

• DME Inventory: Without a rider, insurance typically covers only the cost of the durable medical equipment, goods or related inventory, not its selling price. It may be, however, that an extended wait for the materialization of profits presents a hardship for the practice. If a doctor wants additional protection to cover the sales price of damaged inventory, a selling price endorsement rider is needed.

• Safety codes: If a practice’s building was purchased many years ago, coverage for compliance with current and more stringent safety codes is essential. This is called an ordinance or law endorsement, and it covers the cost of restoring damaged property in a manner that complies with current safety ordinances.

• Data processing and IT rider: Electronic data processing and health information technology coverage riders cover offices for the full cost of replacing lost hardware and software. They also protect against the loss of practice income from disruptions in billing or services.

• Supplier damage: If a medical practice is closed down because a major supplier sustains significant property damage, medical offices may have no means to cover the loss. A contingent business interruption insurance rider protects the physician-owner from a loss of income.

• Worst case scenario: “Worst case scenario” coverage is available, but sometimes requires a customized amendment to provide adequate medical practice insurance coverage.

• Earthquake and Flood Insurance: Protection against earthquake and flood damage may also be desirable. Many offices are surprised to learn they are in earthquake zones. Everyone knows about it in California, but Massachusetts has a number of earthquake zones as well.

Disclosure: Both authors are former financial advisors and licensed insurance agents.insurance-book

MORE: Business Insurance

Assessment

Medical professionals should sit down with their consultants and advisors and review their levels of insurance coverage to make sure they have adequate protection. It is also important to ensure that their coverage suits their circumstances—and they are not paying for something that might not be appropriate for their specific situations.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated?

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An Interview with Bennett Aikin AIF®

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On Financial Fiduciary Accountability

[By Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA & Prof. Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™]

[By Ann Miller; RN, MHA]

Currently, there is a growing dilemma in the financial sales and services industry. It goes something like this:

  • What is a financial fiduciary?
  • Who is a financial fiduciary?
  • How can I tell if my financial advisor is a fiduciary?

Now, in as much as this controversy affects laymen and physician-investors alike, we went right to the source for up-to-date information regarding this often contentious topic, for an email interview and Q-A session, with Ben Aikin.ben-aikin

About Bennett Aikin AIF® and fi360.com

Bennett [Ben] Aikin is the Communications Coordinator for fi360.com. He oversees all communications for fi360. His responsibilities include messaging, brand management, copyrights and trademarks, and publications. Mr. Aikin received his BA in English from Virginia Tech in 2003 and is currently an MS candidate in Journalism from Ohio University.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

You have been very helpful and gracious to us. So, let’s get right to it, Ben. In the view of many; attorneys, doctors, CPAs and the clergy are fiduciaries; most all others who retain this title seem poseurs; sans documentation otherwise.

A. Mr. Aikin

You are correct. Attorneys, doctors and clergy are the prototype fiduciaries. They have a clear duty to put the best interests of their clients, patients, congregation, etc., above their own. [The duty of a CPA isn’t as clear to me, although I believe you are correct]. Furthermore, this is one of the first topics we address in our AIF training programs, and what we call the difference between a profession and an industry.  The three professions you name have three common characteristics that elevate them from an industry to a profession:

  1. Recognized body of knowledge
  2. Society depends upon practitioners to provide trustworthy advice
  3. Code of conduct that places the clients’ best interests first

Q. Medical Executive Post 

It seems that Certified Financial Planner®, Chartered Financial Analysts, Registered Investment Advisors and their representatives, Registered Representative [stock-brokers] and AIF® holders, etc, are not really financial fiduciaries, either by legal statute or organizational charter. Are we correct, or not? Of course, we are not talking ethics or morality here. That’s for the theologians to discuss.

A. Mr. Aikin

One of the reasons for the “alphabet soup”, as you put it in one of your white papers [books, dictionaries and posts] on financial designations, is that while there is a large body of knowledge, there is no one recognized body of knowledge that one must acquire to enter the financial services industry.  The different designations serve to provide a distinguisher for how much and what parts of that body of knowledge you do possess.  However, being a fiduciary is exclusively a matter of function. 

In other words, regardless of what designations are held, there are five things that will make one a fiduciary in a given relationship:

  1. You are “named” in plan or trust documents; the appointment can be by “name” or by “title,” such as CFO or Head of Human Resources
  2. You are serving as a trustee; often times this applies to directed trustees as well
  3. Your function or role equates to a professional providing comprehensive and continuous investment advice
  4. You have discretion to buy or sell investable assets
  5. You are a corporate officer or director who has authority to appoint other fiduciaries

So, if you are a fiduciary according to one of these definitions, you can be held accountable for a breach in fiduciary duty, regardless of any expertise you do, or do not have. This underscores the critical nature of understanding the fiduciary standard and delegating certain duties to qualified “professionals” who can fulfill the parts of the process that a non-qualified fiduciary cannot.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

How about some of the specific designations mentioned on our site, and elsewhere. I believe that you may be familiar with the well-known financial planner, Ed Morrow, who often opines that there are more than 98 of these “designations”? In fact, he is the founder of the Registered Financial Consultants [RFC] designation. And, he wrote a Foreword for one of our e-books; back-in-the-day. His son, an attorney, also wrote as a tax expert for us, as well. So, what gives?

A. Mr. Aikin

As for the specific designations you list above, and elsewhere, they each signify something different that may, or may not, lend itself to being a fiduciary: For example:

• CFP®: The act of financial planning does very much imply fiduciary responsibility.  And, the recently updated CFP® rules of conduct does now include a fiduciary mandate:

• 1.4 A certificant shall at all times place the interest of the client ahead of his or her own. When the certificant provides financial planning or material elements of the financial planning process, the certificant owes to the client the duty of care of a fiduciary as defined by CFP Board. [from http://www.cfp.net/Downloads/2008Standards.pdf]

•  CFA: Very dependent on what work the individual is doing.  Their code of ethics does have a provision to place the interests of clients above their own and their Standards of Practice handbook makes clear that when they are working in a fiduciary capacity that they understand and abide by the legally mandated fiduciary standard.

• FA [Financial Advisor]: This is a generic term that you may find being used by a non-fiduciary, such as a broker, or a fiduciary, such as an RIA.

• RIA: Are fiduciaries.  Registered Investment Advisors are registered with the SEC and have obligations under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 to provide services that meet a fiduciary standard of care.

• RR: Registered Reps, or stock-brokers, are not fiduciaries if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.  If they give investment advice that crosses the line into “comprehensive and continuous investment advice” (see above), their function would make them a fiduciary and they would be subject to meeting a fiduciary standard in that advice (even though they may not be properly registered to give advice as an RIA).

• AIF designees: Have received training on a process that meets, and in some places exceeds, the fiduciary standard of care.  We do not require an AIF® to always function as a fiduciary. For example, we allow registered reps to gain and use the AIF® designation. In many cases, AIF designees are acting as fiduciaries, and the designation is an indicator that they have the full understanding of what that really means in terms of the level of service they provide.  We do expect our designees to clearly disclose whether they accept fiduciary responsibility for their services or not and advocate such disclosure for all financial service representatives.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Your website, http://www.fi360.com, seems to suggest, for example, that banks/bankers are fiduciaries. We have found this not to be the case, of course, as they work for the best interests of the bank and stockholders. What definitional understanding are we missing?

A. Mr. Aikin

Banks cannot generally be considered fiduciaries.  Again, it is a matter of function. A bank may be a named trustee, in which case a fiduciary standard would generally apply.  Banks that sell products are doing so according to their governing regulations and are “prudent experts” under ERISA, but not necessarily held to a fiduciary standard in any broader sense.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

And so, how do we rectify the [seemingly intentional] industry obfuscation on this topic. We mean, our readers, subscribers, book and dictionary purchasers, clients and colleagues are all confused on this topic. The recent financial meltdown only stresses the importance of understanding same.

For example, everyone in the industry seems to say they are the “f” word. But, our outreach efforts to contact traditional “financial services” industry pundits, CFP® practitioners and other certification organizations are continually met with resounding silence; or worse yet; they offer an abundance of parsed words and obfuscation but no confirming paperwork, or deep subject-matter knowledge as you have kindly done. We get the impression that some FAs honesty do-not have a clue; while others are intentionally vague.

A. Mr. Aikin

All of the evidence you cite is correct.  But that does not mean it is impossible to find an investment advisor who will manage to a fiduciary standard of care and acknowledge the same. The best way to rectify confusion as it pertains to choosing appropriate investment professionals is to get fiduciary status acknowledged in writing and go over with them all of the necessary steps in a fiduciary process to ensure they are being fulfilled. There also are great resources out there for understanding the fiduciary process and for choosing professionals, such as the Department of Labor, the SEC, FINRA, the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning division, the Financial Planning Association, and, of course, Fiduciary360.

We realize the confusion this must cause to those coming from the health care arena, where MD/DO clearly defines the individual in question; as do other degrees [optometrist, clinical psychologist, podiatrist, etc] and medical designations [fellow, board certification, etc.]. But, unfortunately, it is the state of the financial services industry as it stands now.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

It is as confusing for the medical community, as it is for the lay community. And, after some research, we believe retail financial services industry participants are also confused. So, what is the bottom line?

A. Mr. Aikin

The bottom line is that lay, physician and all clients have a right to expect and demand a fiduciary standard of care in the managing of investments. And, there are qualified professionals out there who are providing those services.  Again, the best way to ensure you are getting it is to have fiduciary status acknowledged in writing, and go over the necessary steps in a fiduciary process with them to ensure it is being fulfilled.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

The “parole-evidence” rule, of contract law, applies, right? In dealing with medical liability situations, the medics and malpractice attorneys have a rule: “if it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen.”  

A. Mr. Aikin

An engagement contract accepting fiduciary status should trump a subsequent attempt to claim the fiduciary standard didn’t apply. But, to reiterate an earlier point, if someone acts in one of the five functional fiduciary roles, they are a fiduciary whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.  I have attached a sample acknowledgement of fiduciary status letter with copies of our handbook, which details the fiduciary process we instruct in our programs, and our SAFE, which is basically a checklist that a fiduciary should be able to answer “Yes” to every question to ensure the entire fiduciary process is being covered.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

It is curious that you mention checklists. We have a post arguing that very theme for doctors and hospitals as they pursue their medial error reduction, and quality improvement, endeavors. And, we applaud your integrity, and wish only for clarification on this simple fiduciary query?

A. Mr. Aikin

Simple definition: A fiduciary is someone who is managing the assets of another person and stands in a special relationship of trust, confidence, and/or legal responsibility.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Who is a financial fiduciary and what, if any, financial designation indicates same?

A. Mr. Aikin

Functional definition: See above for the five items that make you a fiduciary.

Financial designations that unequivocally indicate fiduciary duty: Short answer is none, only function can determine who is a fiduciary. 

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Please repeat that?

A. Mr. Aikin

Financial designations that indicate fiduciary duty: none. It is the function that determines who is a fiduciary.  Now, having said that, the CFP® certification comes close by demanding their certificants who are engaged in financial planning do so to a fiduciary standard. Similarly, other designations may certify the holder’s ability to perform a role that would be held to a fiduciary standard of care.  The point is that you are owed a fiduciary standard of care when you engage a professional to fill that role or they functionally become one.  And, if you engage a professional to fill a non-fiduciary role, they will not be held to a fiduciary standard simply because they have a particular designation.  One of the purposes the designations serve is to inform you what roles the designation holder is capable of fulfilling.

It is also worth keeping in mind that just being a fiduciary doesn’t equate to a full knowledge of the fiduciary standard. The AIF® designation indicates having been fully trained on the standard.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Yes, your website mentions something about fiduciaries that are not aware of same! How can this be? Since our business model mimics a medical model, isn’t that like saying “the doctor doesn’t know he is doctor?” Very specious, with all due respect!

A. Mr. Aikin

I think it is first important to note that this statement is referring not just to investment professionals.  Part of the audience fi360 serves is investment stewards, the non-professionals who, due to facts and circumstances, still owe a fiduciary duty to another.  Examples of this include investment committee members, trustees to a foundation, small business owners who start 401k plans, etc.  This is a group of non-sophisticated investors who may not be aware of the full array of responsibilities they have. 

However, even on the professional side I believe the statement isn’t as absurd as it sounds.  This is basically a protection from both ignorant and unscrupulous professionals.  Imagine a registered representative who, either through ignorance or design, begins offering comprehensive and continuous investment advice.  Though they may deny or be unaware of the fact, they have opened themselves up to fiduciary liability. 

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Please clarify the use of arbitration clauses in brokerage account contracts for us. Do these disclaim fiduciary responsibility? If so, does the client even know same?

A. Mr. Aikin

By definition, an engagement with a broker is a non-fiduciary relationship.  So, unless other services beyond the scope of a typical brokerage account contract are specified, fiduciary responsibility is inherently not applicable.  Unfortunately, I do imagine there are clients who don’t understand this. Furthermore, AIF® designees are not prohibited from signing such an agreement and there are some important points to understand the reasoning.

First, by definition, if you are entering into such an agreement, you are entering into a non-fiduciary relationship. So, any fiduciary requirement wouldn’t apply in this scenario.

Second, if this same question were applied into a scenario of a fiduciary relationship, such as with an RIA, this would be a method of dispute resolution, not a practice method. So, in the event of dispute, the advisor and investor would be free to agree to the method of resolution of their choosing. In this scenario, however, typically the method would not be discussed until the dispute itself arose.

Finally, it is important to know that AIF/AIFA designees are not required to be a fiduciary. It is symbolic of the individuals training, knowledge and ongoing development in fiduciary processes, but does not mean they will always be acting as a fiduciary.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Don’t the vast majority of arbitration hearings find in favor of the FA; as the arbitrators are insiders, often paid by the very same industry itself?

A. Mr. Aikin

Actual percentages are reported here: http://www.finra.org/ArbitrationMediation/AboutFINRADR/Statistics/index.htm However, brokerage arbitration agreements are a dispute resolution method for disputes that arise within the context of the securities brokerage industry and are not the only means of resolving differences for all types of financial advisors.  Investment advisers, for example, are subject to respond to disputes in a variety of forums including state and federal courts.  Clients should look at their brokerage or advisory agreement to see what they have agreed to. If you wanted to go into further depth on this question, we would recommend contacting Brian Hamburger, who is a lawyer with experience in this area and an AIFA designee. Bio page: http://www.hamburgerlaw.com/attorneys/BSH.htm.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

What about our related Certified Medical Planner® designation, and online educational program for financial advisors and medical management consultants? Is it a good idea – reasonable – for the sponsor to demand fiduciary accountability of these charter-holders? Cleary, this would not only be a strategic competitive advantage, but advance the CMP™ mission to put medical colleagues first and champion their cause www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org above all else. 

A. Mr. Aikin

I think it is a good idea for any plan sponsor to demand fiduciary status be acknowledged from anyone engaged to provide comprehensive and continuous investment advice.  I also think it is a good idea to be proactive in verifying that the fiduciary process is being followed.

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Is there anything else that we should know about this topic?

A. Mr. Aikin

Yes, a further note about fi360’s standards. I wrote generically about the fiduciary standard, because there is one that is defined by multiple sources of regulation, legislation and case law.  The process defined in our handbooks, we call a Fiduciary Standard of Excellence, because it covers that minimum standard and also best practice standards that go above and beyond.  All of our Practices, which comprise that standard, are legally substantiated in our Legal Memoranda handbook, which was written by Fred Reish’s law firm, who is considered a leading ERISA attorney.

Additional resources:

Q. Medical Executive Post 

Thank you so much for your knowledge and willingness to frankly share it with the Medical-Executive-Post.

Assessment

All are invited to continue the conversation with Mr. Aikin, asynchronously online, or thru this contact information:

fi360.com
438 Division Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
412-741-8140 Phone
866-390-5080 Toll-free phone
412-741-8142 Fax

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Some Insight on Medicare Advantage Plans

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Enter the Bounty Hunter Insurance Agents

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[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA]

[Publisher-in-Chief]

As a health insurance agent and industry insider for more than a decade, I know first hand that the agents and brokers who enroll senior citizens in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans often make more on those members than the health plans themselves. 

Example:

For example, up to $400-600 can be spent on an insurance agent/broker fee by the health plan, contributing to a total member acquisition cost that can exceed 10% of the premium dollar. And, this commission fee or bounty on “grandma” – much like a bulls-eye target on her back – was much higher back in the day. Hence, all the “free” seminars, luncheons, trinkets and other senior citizen freebies cloaked as information dissemination.

Acquisition Costs High

Even if Medicare Advantage plans could deliver the actual health care benefits at a considerably lower cost than traditional Medicare Fee for Service (FFS); it is very possible that the entire savings could be consumed by member acquisition costs.

Assessment

Now, as a doctor, insurance agent, financial advisor, health economist and future MC patient, I believe that traditional Medicare is a very tough act to follow; and is still the best deal around, by far. Now, try to convince my dad.

Conclusion

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Health Insurance versus Mental Health Parity

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Understanding Physical Health and Mental Health Insurance

By Carol Miller; RN, MBA

Carol S. Miller

There is a difference between the benefits covered under medical insurance compared to those covered under mental health benefits.

Mental Health Parity Act

There has always been a disparity resulting in caps on the annual number of visits allowed, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and reduction of covered benefits such as partial hospitalization and number-of-treatment limits for mental health. Congress touched on this issue in 1996 with the Mental Health Parity Act. This federal law prevented group health plans from placing annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits that are lower¾less favorable¾than annual or lifetime dollar limits for medical and surgical benefits.

Group Health Plan Exclusions

However, the law did not require group health plans and their health insurance issuers to include mental health coverage in their benefits package¾it only applied to group health plan insurances that already did include mental health benefits in their benefit package.

MHETA Attempts at Correction

In 2003, Senators Pete Domenici, Edward Kennedy, and Representatives Patrick Kennedy and Jim Ramstad introduced S. 486 and H.R. 953, called the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act. In March 2005, the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act [MHETA] was passed and with the passage of this bill a loophole – insurers may no longer arbitrarily limit the number of hospital days or outpatient treatment sessions for people in need of mental health care – was closed.

Assessment

Nevertheless, even though states are encouraged by the government with this new bill to enact stronger parity laws, the final decision of parity still rests with the states.  Many states have not enforced the law and therefore, insurers may still be inclined to limit

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Why the mental versus medical health care insurance disparities?

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A Shout-Out with Congrats to Hope Rachel Hetico

Professor of the Year – and – Birthday Greetings

 From the Medical Executive-Post Staff 

hetico3As a Distinguished Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Administration, our own Hope Rachel Hetico was named Professor-of-the-Year [second time] at the Atlanta Georgia campus of the University of Phoenix, Graduate School of Business and Management.

Yet, we are not surprised. Hope is a fiercely independent thinker, and while we don’t always see-eye-to-eye, we wanted to congratulate her and highlight some of her contributions to the industry and our endeavors. And today, January 11th, is also her birthday; so Mazel-Tov.

Early Endeavors

Hope received her nursing degree (RN) from Valpariso University and her Master of Science Degree in Healthcare Administration (MSHA) from the College of St. Francis, in Joliette, Illinois. She is author’s editor of a dozen major textbooks, chapters and white-papers and is a nationally known speaker and expert in managed care, medical reimbursement, case management, health insurance, utilization review, National Association of Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), Health Education Data Information Set (HEDIS), and Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) rules and regulations. She was also national corporate Director for Medical Quality Improvement at Apria Healthcare, a public company in Costa Mesa, California.

Current Career

Prior to joining iMBA Inc., as Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Hetico was a hospital executive, financial advisor, insurance agent, and a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality™ (CPHQ) www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com. Currently, she is a senior linguistic docent for the www.HealthDictionarySeries.com wiki-project and devotee of health information technology and andragogy. Hope is also responsible for leading www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com to the top of the exploding adult educational marketplace, expanding the online and on-ground Certified Medical Planner™ charter designation program, and nurturing the company’s rapidly growing list of financial, medical and institutional clients.

And, a Managing Editor, too!

Oh; did we mention that Hope is also managing-editor of Healthcare Organizations [Journal of Financial Management Strategies], our 2-volume – 1,200 pages – quarterly institutional subscription print guide; www.HealthcareFinancials.com?

A Toast 

 And so, hats-off to Hope Hetico; Professor of the Year! Whatever one thinks of her protean style, there is little doubt that she has been as responsible for the growth of this blog and communications forum, as anyone. And, as a traditional Polish-language birthday-cheer, we wish her “Sto-Lot”; or life to 100!

Let’s Par..tay

Come on. It’s a Celebration. Here’s to you Hope? Enjoy your party. The Margarita’s are on us!

hopes-party5

 

 

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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Exposing Medicare and Insurance Sales Commission Scams

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Some Agents and Brokers May Be Cashing-In

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]

According to the Associated Press, on October 25, 2008, Medicare Advantage’s agents stand to make $500 to $550 this year. This happens by enrolling a beneficiary into one of their HMO type managed care type plans, while the agents could make another $500 for every year the beneficiary stays with the plan. It represents a financial reward that is raising concerns that agents and brokers will work too aggressively to enroll people into HMO plans that don’t meet their health needs; or where traditional Medicare may be a better personal fit.

CMS to Take Action

Representative Peter Stark (D-California) has urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS] to consider capping the commissions, while Kerry Weems, the acting administrator for CMS, said the agency plans to take action soon.

Insurance Policy “Twisting” and “Churning”

According to the Dictionary of Health Insurance and Managed Care, and others:www.HealthDictionarySeries.com:

  • Policy Twisting is the use of trickery to get someone to lapse an insurance policy and purchase a new one; usually in another company.

  • Policy Churning is a related fraudulent practice where an agent tricks a policy holder to fund a new one with the same insurer. Important information about the full consequences of their action is dishonestly withheld.

Both tactics are typically done to increase sales agent/broker commission income.

Scam Alerts

Although much more common with life insurance policies, each state has an insurance department that will help you if you think you’ve been scammed. Visit their website or office and you’ll get help on what to do. Many reputable insurance companies will quickly compensate you once it’s established that you were a victim of such fraud. Make sure you don’t waste you time by complaining to an insurer’s branch office. Contact the main office for swift response.

Assessment

America‘s Health Insurance Plans [AHIPs], the trade group representing insurers, encouraged CMS to develop clear and consistent standards, while two of the major players in the program, Humana Corporation and UnitedHealth Group both said that they welcomed regulation of insurance agent commissions. WellPoint and Cigna are the two other major health insurance companies in this country.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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SEC Rule 151-A and Insurance Agents

NAFA Criticizes the SEC

Staff Reportersinsurance-book

Insurance agents without securities licenses won’t be able to sell index annuities under this new proposed rule.

NAFA Opines

The National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA) recently took a firm stand against the Security & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed Rule 151A, which would regulate index annuities as securities rather than as insurance products.

Insurance-Securities Hybrid Product

NAFA said in a statement issued in July that it “strongly disagrees with the SEC proposal and will pursue all available avenues of recourse,” including taking legal recourse, if required.

Assessment

NAFA Says Nix SEC Rule 151A.

Conclusion

In other words, if Rule 151A is adopted, insurance agents without securities licenses would not be able to sell Index Annuities [IAs].  IAs are investment products that combine both fixed income investments and equity index options so as to be able to leverage opportunities in both.

Please comment and opine; especially insurance agents, investment advisors and financial planners.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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Medically-Focused Insurance Agents?

Avoiding the “Managed Care Ripple Effect”

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™]

The healthcare industrial complex represents a large and diverse industry, and the livelihood of other synergistic professionals who advise doctors depend on it as well. These include insurance agents who themselves wish to avoid the collateral ripple effects of the current healthcare debacle.

The Name Game

As a registered health underwriter, insurance counselor, long term care or life insurance agent, it seems that almost every insurance agent is also acquiring a general securities license, or CFP®, in addition to the CLU or ChFC after their name.

The Transition

Currently, about 240,000 life insurance agents, down from more than one million in 1965, are being pressured to move toward financial planning, as distribution of insurance products over the Internet spreads like wildfire.

Meanwhile, the same insurance and investment companies that are knocking on your door are also courting the medical professionals with their practice enhancement programs.  Even if you are not interested in going into the financial planning business, you have seen the status of the American College erode of late, even as your own business has declined because of the World Wide Web and various discounted insurance companies.

More Competition

And, in the eyes of your former golden-goose doctor-clients, you may have become a charlatan with the recent mortgage, insurance and banking industry collapse of 2008. Now, it seems as though everyone is clamoring for a piece of your insurance business and cloaking it in the guise of the contemporary topic of the day; medical practice risk-management and financial planning.

If you think this is an exaggerated statement; think again? More than a decade ago, an October 1997 survey conducted by Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group of New York, found insurance agents ranked last in having the trust of a wide selection of the public! The insurance debacle today only exacerbates this opinion.  

Regaining Trust

But, how do you regain this lost trust, and what about this new entity known as managed care. How do you learn about it at this stage in your career?

What ever happened to whole-life insurance; or traditional indemnity health insurance, with its deductibles, co-payments and 80/20 patient responsibility? It was so easy to sell, provided good coverage and the agent made a nice profit.

As an insurance agent, all you want to know is, can I still sell insurance and make a living?  Like all struggling collateral advisors, you find yourself asking, how do I “talk the talk, and walk the walk”, in this new era of insurance, transparency and liability turmoil?

Assessment

Slowly, as you read about the Certified Medical Planneronline educational program, you become empowered with knowledge and ideas for new insurance product derivatives that actually provide value to your physician clients www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

After the proscribed course of study, you are no longer just an insurance salesman, but a trusted risk-management advisor and Certified Medical Planner™ for the healthcare industry. You have avoided the “managed care ripple effect.”

Disclaimer: Dr. Marcinko, a former insurance agent and Certified Financial Planner, is Founder of the Certified Medial Planner program for all fiduciary consultants in health economics, finance and medical practice management.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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