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Learn the “Right” Investing Lessons from 2013

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Understanding the Recency Effect

Lon JeffriesBy Lon Jefferies MBA CFP® www.NetWorthAdvice.com

The year 2013 was viewed as a very positive one by most investors; especially physician-investors.

The S&P 500 index (measuring large cap U.S. stocks) was up 32.39% for the year.

However, the reality is most other asset categories didn’t come close to keeping up with the pace set by U.S. equities.

For instance:

  • Foreign Stocks (IEFA): 22.46%
  • Emerging Markets (IEMG): -2.77%
  • Real Estate (IYR): 1.16%
  • US Government Bonds (IEF): -6.09%
  • US TIPS (TIP): -8.49%
  • Corporate Bonds (LQD): -2.00%
  • International Bonds (IGOV): -1.37%
  • Emerging Market Bonds (LEMB): -6.73%
  • Commodities (DJP): -11.12%
  • Gold (GLD): -28.33%

In Hindsight

In retrospect, the way to maximize your gain last year would have been to hold a completely undiversified portfolio consisting of nothing but U.S. stocks. The danger going forward is to learn the wrong lesson from 2013. Investors always have the temptation to fall prey to the Recency Effect, continuing and exaggerating the behaviors that worked in the recent past believing the environment we’ve just been through will be permanent.

The Long-Term Benefits of Diversification

Many will abandon their investment strategy because it didn’t give them the absolute best result last year, failing to recognize the long-term benefit of diversification. I’d argue that a better perspective is to remind yourself that the definition of diversification is that you always dislike a portion of your portfolio.

Always Laggards

Even in the most widely prosperous market environment, a truly diversified portfolio will have an element or two that lags the market. In fact, if at any time a portion of your portfolio isn’t generating negative returns, you should be concerned about a lack of diversification in your investment strategy.

Allocate Assets Now

Now is an ideal time to review your asset allocation and remind yourself why we diversify. Modifying your allocation with a focus on what happened in 2013 would be similar to guessing a coin flip will land on tails because it did on the previous flip.

Stock Market

Assessment

The correct lesson to take from 2013 is that over time, a well-diversified portfolio is capable of producing sufficient returns to help you reach your investment goals while minimizing risk.

Conclusion

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The Impact of Rising Interest Rates on Bonds

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On Interest and Exchange Rates

Lon JeffriesBy Lon Jefferies MBA CFP® www.NetWorthAdvice.com

An interest rate hike has been widely anticipated for some time. According to an October survey of 50 top economists conducted by the Wall Street Journal, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was forecasted to rise nearly one percentage point to 3.47% by the end of 2014.

What impact would such a rise have on your investment or retirement portfolio?

The Impact

Christopher Philips, a senior analyst in Vanguard’s Investment Strategy Group, points out the historical inaccuracy of such forecasts.

For instance, a similar survey conducted in 2010 had economists predicting a 4.24% 10-year Treasury yield by the end of the year, an increase from 3.61% at the time of the forecast. In actuality, rates declines to 3.30% at year-end. The inaccuracy of these forecasts is well documented.

In fact, as Allen Roth mentioned in the December issue of Financial Planning Magazine, a 2005 study by the University of North Carolina titled “Professional Forecasts of Interest Rates and Exchange Rates” found economists predict future rates far less accurately than a random coin flip would fare as a predictor.

Clearly, we can’t be confident what interest rates will do in 2014, but what if economists are finally correct and rates rise? How damaging would an interest rate increase be for bonds? If interest rates rise one percentage point next year, the intermediate aggregate bond index is expected to lose -2.8% — far from catastrophic. Of course, such potential risk is notably minimal when compared to the downside of owning stocks (remember the -36.93% loss endured by the S&P 500 in 2008?).

Historical Performance

It is also interesting to study how bonds have historically performed in periods of rising interest rates. Craig Israelsen, a BYU professor, recently documented how bonds performed during the two most recent periods of rate increases. Israelsen points out that although the federal discount rate rose from 5.46% to 13.42% from 1977 through 1981, the intermediate government/credit index had a 5.63% annualized return during that period. The next period of rising interest rates was from 2002 through 2006, when the federal discount rate had a fivefold increase: from 1.17% to 5.96%. During this period, the intermediate government/credit index obtained a 4.53% annual return. Clearly, even in an environment of rising interest rates, bond performance was surprisingly strong.

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Muni Bond Underwriters

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Most importantly, investors should never forget the value bonds add to a portfolio as a diversifier to stocks. Frequently, the performance of stocks and bonds are inversely related.

For instance, when the stock market suffered during the tech bubble crash of 2000-2002, the Barclays Long-Term Government Bond Index rose 20.28%, 4.34%, and 16.99% in those years, respectively.

Current Indices

More recently, when the S&P 500 lost -36.93% in 2008, the Long-Term Government Bond Index rose 22.69% during the year. This diversification benefit may prove useful when stocks ultimately cool off from the extended hot streak they have experienced since 2009.

In 2013, the Aggregate Bond Index decreased in value by -1.98%. Given the occasional negative correlation in performance between stocks and bonds, is it really surprising that bonds didn’t produce a positive return given the incredible year stocks had (S&P 500 up over 32%)? Additionally, held within a diversified portfolio, isn’t the -1.98% return produced by bonds during the recent equity surge a small price to pay for the additional security they are likely to provide when markets reverse?

Assessment

It doesn’t seem prudent to avoid bonds entirely during periods of expected interest rate increases.

  1. First, forecasts of rising rates are far from certain.
  2. Second, even if interest rates rise bonds are still likely to be far less risky than stocks.
  3. Third, rising interest rates don’t necessarily mean declining bond values are a certainty – in fact, bonds performed quite well during the past two periods of rate increases.
  4. Finally, bonds are a vitally important part of a diversified portfolio, and owning uncorrelated and negatively correlated assets will be critical when equities ultimately lose their momentum.

Conclusion

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Should You Own an Umbrella Insurance Policy?

Risk Reduction for Medical Professionals?

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By Lon Jefferies, MBA CFP™  www.NetWorthAdvice.com

Lon JeffriesAs a financial planner, a good portion of my job consists of identifying and dealing with potential risks and liabilities for which my clients are exposed. One of the most comprehensive, cost-effective tools for reducing risk exposure is an umbrella insurance policy. Quite simply, if you are reading this ME-P, the purchase of an umbrella policy would be a wise decision.

What is an Umbrella Policy?

An umbrella policy protects both your current and future assets against the cost of losing a lawsuit involving your car or real estate property. Such a policy is in addition to your auto and homeowners insurance.

For example, suppose your auto insurance pays $300k of medical expenses per accident, and you have a $1 million umbrella policy. If you are sued for $800k because of an auto accident, your auto insurance will pay the first $300k of damage. This also serves as the deductible on the umbrella policy, so the umbrella coverage would pay the remaining $500k of damages.

Additionally, umbrella policies cover legal expenses involved with a lawsuit. Even better, since it is the insurance company that will be paying any damages, they are likely to assign a strong (expensive) legal team to your case. Consequently, purchasing an umbrella policy is an indirect way of strengthening your legal defense team.

What Does an Umbrella Policy Cover?

An umbrella policy protects you in car accidents for which you are found to be at fault, as well as accidents that occur on your real estate property. Additionally, these policies protect you from personal injury lawsuits arising from slander, defamation, libel, malicious prosecution, mental anguish and more.  Even better, this coverage will protect you from accidents caused by your dependent children.

As you might imagine, certain factors increase your need for an umbrella policy. For instance, if you spend a lot of time in your car, or you own a swimming pool or a dog, the need for an umbrella policy rises.

Some people think they don’t need an umbrella policy simply because their low net worth doesn’t justify it. This is inaccurate because losing a lawsuit can result in the loss of both your current assets, and your future earnings. For this reason, I believe nearly everyone, especially medical professionals, should have an umbrella policy.

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policy insurance

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How Do I Purchase Coverage?

In most instances, an umbrella policy can be purchased through your current insurance providers. A $1 million policy usually costs approximately $200 per year, with additional coverage purchased in $1 million dollar increments and costing approximately $100 per year. At such a low cost while providing critical catastrophic coverage, there is no reason for you to not own such a policy.

Conclusion

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New-Age Physician Risks Courtesy of Health Information Technology

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Issues You May Not Have Considered

By David K. Luke MIM, Certified Medical Planner™

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

The entire nation continues to experience a medical malpractice liability crisis.

Facing physicians is the concern of frequency and severity of claims that either continues to rise or remains steady. And, much has been written about the impact of the liability crisis on physicians, the medical community, patients and access to care.

But, with health 2.0 connectivity, there are even more risks for doctors, and most all medical professionals, to consider.

So, here are a few fresh liability risks to your medical practice, to you, and to your patients courtesy of the health information age:

  1. Data breech risk. While not a new risk, the higher prevalence is new. The risks of a being fined by OCR due to the privacy rules of HIPAA because a practice had a data-breech with their EHR is becoming more common and very expensive
  2. Risks of telemedicine. As physicians become more technologically enabled in their practice of medicine, some are turning to real-time videoconferencing and other technologies. Some specialties such as psychiatry have been early adopters, but have to make sure they are still employing the same standards of care required by an in office visit (Cash 26). Also, the telephone can facilitate medical care but also result in adverse outcomes leading to telephone-related malpractice suits (Mondor, et al 517).
  3. Risks of new age medicine practices and their regulation. Case in point: Dry needling, which is like acupuncture, is a growing practice in places like Australia but is unregulated. Physicians should understand all regulatory and other risks when implementing new unregulated practices pushed by our new age society (Janz). Home births are on the rise in North America (even in Canada with government provided hospital delivery) but physicians end up dealing with the disasters and associated risks when they occur (Bochove 68).
  4. Reputation Risk. Reputation is a doctor’s most valuable asset. With the new age of internet and instant information, physicians must take great care in managing their reputation on such media sources as they are under increasing public and press scrutiny (Boyd 221).
  5. Communication risks to immigrants with limited non-native language proficiency. With today’s higher immigrant population in the United States, more medical practices are treating patients with limited English language proficiency. Clinicians now run the risk of not properly communicating medical risk information to these populations. A recent study shows that materials that include visual aids are being used by medical practices to effectively communicate with the patient (Garcia-Retamero, Rocio, and Mandeep, K. Dhami 47).
  6. The rise of the informed distrusting patient and related risks. With the ubiquity of medical information on the internet, the risks incurred by a medical practice in properly dealing with the newly informed patients with medical degrees from the University of Google Medical School are on the rise. Physicians must refine their “bed side manner” and improve their communication skills in order to deal with a more questioning patient population. Clinicians should actively discuss what patients have read on the internet when patients refer to their internet diagnoses (Lam-Po-Tang, John, and Diana McKay 130).

Works Cited

  • Bochove, Danielle. “Don’t Try This At Home.” Maclean’s 124.33/34 (2011): 68. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
  • Boyd, M. “Managing Risk To Reputation.” Clinical Risk 15.6 (2009): 221-223. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
  • Cash, Charles, D. “Telepsychiatry And Risk Management.” Innovations In Clinical Neuroscience 8.9 (2011): 26-30. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
  • Garcia-Retamero, Rocio, and Mandeep, K. Dhami. “Pictures Speak Louder Than Numbers: On Communicating Medical Risks To Immigrants With Limited Non-Native Language Proficiency.” Health Expectations 14.(2011): 46-57. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
  • Janz, StephenAdams “Acupuncture by Another Name: Dry Needling in Australia.” Australian Journal Of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine 6, no. 2: 3-11. Alt HealthWatch, EBSCOhost. Web. 27 Apr. 2012
    • Lam-Po-Tang, John, and Diana McKay. “Dr Google, MD: A Survey Of Mental Health-Related Internet Use In A Private Practice Sample.” Australasian Psychiatry 18.2 (2010): 130-133. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
    • Maureen Mondor, et al. “Patient Safety And Telephone Medicine.” JGIM: Journal Of General Internal Medicine 23.5 (2008): 517-522. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Apr. 2012

Conclusion

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Welfare Benefit Trust Plans for Physicians?

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“Hall of Fame” for Egregious Investment Advice

By David K. Luke MIM, Certified Medical Planner™ – candidate

[Physician Financial Advisor – Fee Only]

www.NetWorthAdvice.com

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Physicians unfortunately often become unwitting targets of some very egregious investment advice. Usually it involves an investment product with an imbedded fat commission just waiting to be deposited in a “financial advisor’s” bank account.

In the “Hall of Fame” of egregious investment advice is the Welfare Benefit Trust. About 10 years ago, while I was working for a top five national brokerage firm (this was before my fee-only days when I was still on the “dark side”) our internal Insurance Products Department at the brokerage firm’s head office presented an amazing investment product. This “Welfare Benefit Trust” we were told should be shown to our profitable small business owners as a cure for their every ill caused by paying too much taxes. A Welfare Benefit Trust essentially works like this:

  • The business provides a fringe benefit for their employees, such as health insurance and life insurance.
  • The benefit is established in the name of a trust and funded with a cash value life insurance policy
  • Here is the gravy: the entire amount deposited into the trust (insurance policy) is tax deductible to the company, and
  • The owners of the company can withdraw the cash value from the policy in later years tax-free.

Yes, the holy grail of tax avoidance has been achieved: tax deductible up front and tax-free when you withdraw. By the way, if you are not familiar with such investments there is a reason. They are not legal by the tax code. Physician practices, as well as other small and mid-sized businesses, became buyers into these welfare benefit trusts as they were sold as a way for the practice to “protect” a large profit in a certain year from being taxed. We were told it was not uncommon for a single transaction into a welfare benefit trust to be $200,000 to $300,000 dollars or more in a single premium payment, yielding typically a six-figure commission check.

A few years later the gig was up as it became obvious these could not be tax legal. My understanding is that most medical practices that bought these “unrolled” them when the major brokerage firms realized that avarice got the best of them and stopped selling them. In 2007, the IRS and the Treasury Department issued a formal warning cautioning “about certain Trust Arrangements Sold as Welfare Benefit Funds”. The IRS called these “abusive schemes” and made such a transaction what the IRS lovingly calls a “listed transaction”. Essentially, a listed transaction is a transaction that the IRS has determined to be a tax avoidance transaction. The IRS even keeps these Listed Transactions on their website, listed in chronological order from 1 to 34. Welfare Benefit Trusts is #33.

Good Welfare Benefit Trusts

First of all, it is important to mention that “there are many legitimate welfare benefit funds that provide benefits” according to the IRS. Internal Revenue Code Sections 419 and 419A spell out the rules allowing employers to make tax-deductible contributions to Welfare Benefit Plans. There is nothing wrong with these plans and no mystery to them. After all, a medical practice or any business for that matter is allowed to deduct the costs of doing business as an expense. This includes employee salary and benefits.

VEBAs (Voluntary Employee Benefits Association) have been around since 1928 and are used by employers to provide health, life, disability, education and other benefits for their employees and are the original Welfare Benefit Trusts. When properly established and executed, a VEBA can be a legitimate employee benefit structure. In 2007 the United Auto Workers, in order to relieve the Big 3 Automakers from carrying the liability for their health plans on their accounting books, formed the world’s largest VEBA with over $45 billion in assets.

Bad Welfare Benefit Trusts

However, the IRS does have a problem with Welfare Benefit Plans that are promoted to small business owners as a scheme to avoid taxes and provide medical and life insurance benefits to key employees that in substance primarily serve the owner(s) of the business. These 419 Welfare Benefit Plan schemes claim that the employer’s contributions are deductible under IRC section 419 as ordinary and necessary business expenses, allowing the business owner to provide a life insurance policy for his favorite employee, himself, and accumulate cash value in a life insurance policy.

Lest there be any confusion or debate, IRC 264(a)(1) states:

(a) General rule

No deduction shall be allowed for –

(1) Premiums on any life insurance policy, or endowment or

annuity contract, if the taxpayer is directly or indirectly a

beneficiary under the policy or contract.

While VEBAs have been used properly, as in the UAW example above, unfortunately they are often a front for an abusive tax shelter. In the 1970’s VEBAs were being used by the wealthy as a popular tool for tax reduction and asset protection. In 1984 Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which limited the use of VEBAs. In the 1990’s however VEBAs were structured to give business owners tax benefits not allowed and got back on the IRS radar. Two state medical societies along with a neonatology group practice became test cases by the IRS that helped close those VEBAs with abusive tax structures and purporting to be employee welfare benefit plans: Southern California Medical Professionals Association VEBA, New Jersey Medical Profession Association VEBA and Neonatology Associates, PA. Although the VEBAs claimed to have favorable determination letters, the actual execution of the plan did not comply with the law, mainly by allowing the employees to hold term policies in the plan that could be converted into universal life policies at the same insurer and use the conversion credit account to spring cash value in the policy. This then allowed policyholders to borrow against the UL policy as a supposedly nontaxable source of retirement income, with the repayment of the loan paid out of the policy’s death benefits. (“Making Welfare Plans Work”, Advisor Today, September 2000 P 110). This of course is not allowed under the tax code.

Those that think that they may be in the clear with their abusive tax shelter because:

  1. A large passage of time has occurred since they have owned it
  2. They have a favorable determination letter
  3. Other honorable businesses/ Medical Societies also have the same tax shelter
  4. My insurance agent said it was legal

may want to read the 98-page ruling by the United States Tax Court filed on July 31, 2000 in the case of the above-mentioned Neonatology and related cases. The long arm of the IRS reached back 9 years to 1991, 1992, 1993 disallowing hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessing deficiencies and huge “accuracy-related” tax penalties. Even the doctors that had died since then were not given a break either; their estates and surviving widows were assessed the deficiencies and penalties.

In 2002 the IRS talked Congress into passing new laws basically killing the use of multiple employer 419 plans. Some TPAs (third party administrators) that had set up the multiple employer plans discovered that they could use single employer 419 welfare benefit trusts and VEBAs because Congress forgot to include them when they passed the negative laws shutting done the multiple employer plans. This forced the IRS to issue notices 2007-83 and 2007-84, Rev. Ruling 2007-65 and make welfare benefit trusts listed tax transactions now on the listed tax transactions list. (“Negative IRS Notices On 419 and VEBA Plans” Roccy M. Defrancesco Nov 1, 2007)

Ugly Welfare Benefit Trusts

I call these “Ugly” because these Welfare Benefit Trusts were sold to small business owners after the 2007 IRS listed transaction warning, and after the multiple IRS notices and revenue rulings. The major brokerage firms by 2004 had stopped selling Welfare Benefit Trusts to protect their own financial interests, realizing these were compliance and lawsuit time bombs. The 2007 IRS listed transaction notice along with multiple other notices however did not seem to stop some smaller broker dealer firms and life insurance agents from promoting these.

I have become aware of the fact that Welfare Benefit Trusts that are in violation of the basics of the tax code (unlimited full deduction of premium,  100% tax free distribution to owner of cash value) are still being sold even today and even affecting existing clients. These Welfare Benefit Trusts go by many different names and the insurance agents selling them are using a number of different insurance companies to fund the plan. These plans involve the sale of an insurance policy usually with a six-digit premium that often pays the insurance agent a six-digit commission, so perhaps I should not be surprised that individuals (physicians?) are still being victimized

Conversation with IRS Attorney on Welfare Benefit Trusts

On January 20, 2012 I discussed with Betty Clary, an IRS attorney that helped draft the listed transaction #33 on the IRS website, on what exactly the IRS considers an abusive Welfare Benefit Plan. She stated that, once you take out the fact that the trust cannot be offering a collective bargaining element which is covered by another IRS code, there were three elements they look for:

  1. There has to be a Trust that claims to be providing welfare benefits
  2. There is either a cash value policy involved that offers accumulation or a policy in which money is set aside for a future policy in which accumulation occurs, such as a term policy that can then offer a higher accumulated value.
  3. The plan cannot deduct in any year more than the benefit provided. For example if the plan just provides a death benefit, the most that can be deducted in a year is only the term cost of that benefit, not the entire premium. If the plan offers medical benefits, then only the cost (what was paid out to the employee) for that benefit can be deducted in that year.

I found it interesting that the IRS is pursuing this broader definition as an abusive plan. Betty explained that in the case of a discovered abusive Welfare Benefit Plan, the IRS would disallow the deductions, assert income back to the owner as a distribution of profits, and assess penalties. The courts are clear that you cannot get out of penalties by claiming you are relying on the person that sold you the Welfare Benefit Plan.

What if you currently have a Welfare Benefit Trust for your Practice?

Realizing that someone you trusted has financially devastated you, carelessly misguided you and sold you a bogus tax program in order to pay cash for his new 7 series BMW can be a difficult and rude awakening. After accepting the fact that your Welfare Benefit Plan you have for your practice meets the basic criteria as mentioned in this article as an abusive transaction, I would recommend that you consult an attorney that specializes in pursuing promoters of abusive Welfare Benefit Plans and discuss your options. I have had discussions with Lance Wallach, an accountant and expert witness used in a number of Welfare Benefit Trust cases, which has confirmed to me that you must be proactive. You may be advised to file an IRS form 8886, which is a disclosure form related to prohibited tax shelter transactions. The penalties for failure to file a form 8886 can be stiff. Of course, filing this form will open the Pandora’s Box on your Welfare Benefit Trust to the IRS. Lance has told me that many of these 8886 filings are done incorrectly. An incorrectly filed IRS form is an unfiled IRS form, so please consult a CPA who is experienced in this area. Your attorney that has expertise with Welfare Benefit Trusts will be able to guide you with this. Regarding recourse, according to Lance, most all cases are settled out of court, as the insurance company, the agent, and the agency prefer to avoid the publicity.

Conclusion

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Physician’s Update on Dividend-Paying Stocks

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But Some Doctors Ask – Why All the Hype?

By David K. Luke MIM CMPcandidate [www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com]

www.NetWorthAdvice.com

In an effort to help the US economy recover, the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates to historically low levels. Furthermore, the Fed has announced its intent to keep interest rates low until 2014. Classic income-producing investments such as savings accounts and certificates of deposit pay next to nothing.

Borrowing Good – Saving Bad!

Borrowers are being rewarded, but savers are being punished. Low interest rates may have spurred the economy somewhat, but they have been devastating for retired people who have a low tolerance for risk. Physicians, other investors and their advisors are turning toward alternatives that pay higher returns, but these vehicles necessarily carry more risk. Among these alternatives, some investors are considering the purchase of stocks that pay reliable dividends.

Assessment

But, is this an appropriate strategy for mature doctors and similar retirees? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks?

Conclusion

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Link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/HealthcareFinancialsthePostForcxos

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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