Healthy clients will avoid medical costs

Kenneth Waltzer's top retirement strategy is to help his clients stay healthy

Oct 26, 2019 @ 6:00 am

By Jeff Benjamin

As a former physician, one of Kenneth Waltzer's first moves when it comes to helping his clients manage and plan for health care expenses is to try and help them stay healthy.

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"Sometimes, I will even make specific recommendations on their health and will talk to a doctor on their behalf," said Mr. Waltzer, co-founder of KCS Wealth Advisory, who no longer practices medicine but is still licensed. "I talk to clients about the importance of staying healthy, and sometimes I'll recommend alternative medicine where there's clear evidence of it working."

Another financial adviser who formerly practiced medicine, Carolyn McClanahan, founder and director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners, also sees an educated client base as a way to reduce health care costs.

"Instead of trying to predict something that's unpredictable, I tell advisers to educate clients on how to be empowered patients," Ms. McClanahan said.

"Patients should understand what to ask doctors so they're not just spending money stupidly," she said. "That involves learning about the medications and whether tests are warranted, instead of just following along with whatever you're told."

Ms. McClanahan preaches to clients and fellow advisers alike her message that health care consumers should serve as their own advocates and never assume the doctor has all the information she needs.

"I tell people to write everything down, including their own medical and family history, and present that to your doctor during your appointment. Or if you can send it in advance of your appointment, that's even better," she said. "People think a diagnosis is like a miracle done through testing, but 90% of a diagnosis comes from the patient's history."

Working with the doctor also involves questioning and even challenging the doctor's orders, especially if those orders involve tests and procedures.

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"When a doctor wants to order testing, sometimes they order everything, because it's easier and they get paid more to do more tests," Ms. McClanahan said. "You should ask what they are expecting from the tests and how will it change how you are treating me. If they can't give you a good answer, the test is probably not necessary."

With more people now on health insurance plans that have high deductibles, most health care expenses will be absorbed by the patient until those deductibles are met, which is why Ms. McClanahan encourages being as cost-conscious as possible.

She also suggested using the GoodRx app to find the cheapest place in your area to fill prescriptions and checking health insurers' websites for lists of the prices various providers charge for certain medical procedures.

Ultimately, Ms. McClanahan and Mr. Waltzer agree that best way to manage health care expenses is to stay as healthy as possible.

"Make sure you just take care of your health to begin with," Ms. McClanahan said. "When you aren't doing your part, it makes it harder to control your illness, and then they will just put you on more drugs."

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