Courses available to become a Medicare pro

New online courses explain crucial retiree health care issues for advisers

Apr 12, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

By Mary Beth Franklin

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Like it or not, clients near retirement often have burning questions about when to enroll in Medicare, particularly if they are still working. If they are enrolled in Medicare already, they may have questions about their premiums. Wouldn't it be nice if you, their financial adviser, knew the answers?

Now there is help as close as your laptop.

The Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit consumer organization, has launched Medicare Interactive Pro, a comprehensive online curriculum designed to help financial advisers navigate a multitude of Medicare questions.

"With 10,000 baby boomers in America turning 65 every day, the need for more professionals to become Medicare knowledgeable is critical," said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, the nation's largest independent source of Medicare information and assistance.

Building on Medicare Rights' 25 years of health care counseling and educational expertise, MI Pro offers both an introductory Medicare overview course for financial planners and a Medicare intensive program for those advisers who want to take a deeper dive into the nuances of the federal health program for Americans age 65 and older.

Both Medicare Rights Center-sponsored courses have been approved for continuing education (CE) credits by the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board. The overview course ($128) qualifies for 5 CE credit hours and the Intensive course ($272) for 17 CE credit hours.

The only other comprehensive Medicare training program for advisers of which I am aware is the excellent Savvy Medicare Planning for Boomers program which includes a four-part online training program by Horsesmouth's director of Retirement and Life Planning Elaine Floyd. The training program qualifies for 6 CE credit hours, and includes an adviser's guide to Medicare reference book and three client workshop presentations.

"Any adviser working the retirement income planning niche needs to understand how Medicare works, what the program's limitations are, and how your clients can fill in the gaps to preserve their financial security," according to the Horsemouth.com website which has also been a pioneer in Social Security training for advisers.

"It's not that every financial planner needs to be a Medicare expert, but it helps to know just enough to carry the conversation and not lose your client to another adviser," said Jay Johnson, director of education for the Medicare Rights Center.

"You don't want to show weakness when a client asks about enrolling in Medicare Part B, coordinating their existing health insurance with Medicare or what it means when they receive a letter about an income-related monthly adjustment amount," Mr. Johnson said. "All those itty, bitty questions add up."

I plan to take Medicare Rights Center's overview course designed to help financial advisers master the fundamentals of Medicare to assist clients with their health care planning needs. The eight-module overview covers the essentials from coverage options and enrollment periods to the coordination of benefits between Medicare and other forms of insurance. I'll report back to my InvestmentNews readers with my impressions after I complete the course.

The Medicare intensive program includes 17 modules designed to provide financial advisers with in-depth knowledge of the rules and regulation regarding Medicare, ranging from late-enrollment penalties to surcharges for high-income clients and the appeals process.

MI Pro is structured so that each course level builds on the information learned in previous levels. A free assessment places users into the appropriate course and level. Quizzes and downloadable materials accompanying each course test subscribers' knowledge. Pass the course with a grade of 80% or higher and you can download a certificate of completion.

But don't worry. If the A, B, C (and Ds) of Medicare make your head spin, another less-taxing option is coming soon.

The Medicare Rights Center's Medicare Minute introductory training program has been around for more than a decade to bring critical healthcare information into community settings. A new version for financial advisers is expected to be approved by the CFP Board in about a month.

The new Medicare Minute program is appropriate for financial advisers and/or their staffs to learn how to engage clients in a Medicare discussion. Every month, participants will receive a set of teaching materials and a script that allows them to conduct their own in-service community programs for clients and prospects. Once approved, it will qualify for two CE credit hours.

(Questions about new Social Security rules? Find the answers in my new ebook.)

Mary Beth Franklin is a contributing editor to InvestmentNews and a certified financial planner.

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