In just a few months, open enrollment begins for individual health insurance on the newly launching health insurance exchanges, and with it comes the onset of a new era in health insurance. While the general media focus has been on the penalties associated with the new individual insurance mandate, the reality from the planning perspective is that the new health insurance rules – including guaranteed access to coverage without any health underwriting – will drastically impact client financial planning decisions.
After all, separating health insurance from employment status by ensuring individual coverage is available directly from an exchange allows clients to be far more flexible with their job decisions. Deciding where to work will no longer need to be tied to the availability of health insurance, freeing clients to make job changes, start new businesses, or simply retire before age 65 Medicare eligibility, without worrying about how they’ll get access to health insurance. How many clients would still be working where they are today if health insurance availability was guaranteed regardless of where (or whether) they worked?
On the other hand, the new health insurance rules will require new knowledge and skills for planners, as the health insurance exchanges will ensure access and availability to health insurance, but introduce complex rules regarding affordability. Helping clients understand how to pay for their newfound access to health insurance will require planners to learn how the new premium assistance tax credits work, and how to maximize them, along with helping clients to change their mindset about making job and career decisions separate from their health insurance coverage. In the long run, what results will likely be a more flexible and positive environment for clients to make good financial planning decisions… but the transition will require planners to get up to speed, and quickly!