September 27, 2013 by Tony Novak
I’ve perhaps become best-known publicly as a 25+ year citizen activist for health care reform. During this time I’ve given dozens of addresses and published hundreds of articles while offering consulting to organizations and working with various companies. I’ve helped develop the concept of online health insurance exchanges and online advisory services. Some projects were successful, others were flops. Reform has been agonizing slow in coming and we still don’t know how the latest federal laws will work out.
For a while this year I tested a health care reform advisory service that, in the end, turned out to be a complete flop. The original idea was to offer an independent service at a price that a working class person could afford. I was well aware that the advice most people were getting was from commission based or government-paid sources and this is not always in their best interest. The idea was that my entire service could be completed in less than an hour and I offered it at half my normal hourly rate. Some people liked it and I was able to help most who tried the service. But a few people had a negative reaction despite my charitable intentions.
One Facebook user wrote at OnlineNavigator.org: “Be aware that the health care act is a govt. instituted and managed debacle. Paying someone 40.00 for “help” that is available online in, oh I’m not sure, about a million places online, should be theft. It’s certainly borderline stupid.”
I replied: “Bob: Would you make the same argument about other CPA services like providing tax advice that is available free from the government? I’ve helped thousands of consumers with their financial and health insurance planning for more than three decades and I’m quite sure the majority would be pleased to say that they received good value. Sure, the adaption of ACA will be rough and I anticipate receiving a good dose of “kill the messenger” reactions like yours. The fact is that smart financial planning for health care expenses is the single most significant factor in determining many if not most peoples’ financial success or failure.” I presume that Bob and I will continue to view the world differently.
Later in the same month I gave an interview to Yahoo Finance about the OnlineAdviser and OnlineNavigator service that focused on the possibility that some consumers might confuse a private service with a government service. After that, without notice, the Better Business Bureau announced that my A+ rating was now “under review”. The BBB has not respond to my multiple requests for an explanation.
I realize now that it’s not about logic or fairness or intent, the fact is that the launch of the Affordable Care Act will be contentious no matter what any individual tries to say or do. There will be a “kill the messenger” response to some who dare stand on the front line of health reform. I have since retreated to providing advice only to more affluent and financially sophisticated clients who understand the importance of health insurance strategy as part of their overall financial planning and security.