Medicare service Copyright Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Medicare Decision-Making Tool Rolled Out by United Income

Called Medicare Advice, the free online offering has 300 decision points built in by the firm.

United Income, the Washington, D.C.–based automated investment service designed for baby boomers who are approaching retirement and have assets but no advisor, has introduced a new online Medicare tool. The free intuitive digital tool, Medicare Advice, can help anyone, whether a UI client or not, make their Medicare decisions through a guided, largely click-driven experience (users just need to register with an email address).

“One of the key levers of financial planning that is often overlooked is government benefits,” said Elizabeth Kelly, United Income’s senior vice president of operations. Another factor that can prove problematic, she said, is the age people claim Social Security, something all advisors can relate to.

Making the right decisions when it comes to Medicare is important as well, and mistakes can prove costly. According to a 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service, the complexity of filing for Medicare resulted in late-enrollment penalties for 750,000 beneficiaries and in higher monthly premiums—29 percent higher on average. Issues of insufficient coverage also arise and there tend to be limited resources for individual citizens to figure out these complexities on their own, beyond simplistic advice from websites and often-complex government publications on the subject.

“Thinking these decisions through is also a problem for those that have not retired yet; you aren’t just deciding for yourself,” said Andrew Vincent who leads the product team at United Income. “Our tools help you look at all these interconnected factors,” he explained.

Those using the tool and who navigate through all its questions receive personalized Medicare plan recommendations. The logic underlying the questions and answers then points the user to the right decisions in signing up for Medicare parts A and B and helps in deciding about Medigap coverage, as well as timing and order of decisions. It also takes into account permutations, which can in turn branch off, when necessary, to address other considerations. For example, when determining Medicare eligibility, the tool asks whether you have access to retiree insurance, which can sometimes be available to members of unions or other organizations.

The tool can also provide annual premium estimates, calendar reminders for key enrollment dates and personalized healthcare cost forecasts for clients of UI. Premium members of UI also have access to a personal concierge that can enroll them directly into Medicare if they want to skip the enrollment process. 

When asked what would prevent an advisor from registering and using the tool themselves for thinking through their clients’ Medicare decisions, UI’s Vincent responded: “nothing.”

“What an endorsement that would be,” he added, saying that the firm had set out to make it easy and approachable for anyone to get good Medicare advice.

United Income, which launched in the fall of 2017, has grown significantly in assets under management over the past year, from the $282 million WealthManagement.com reported from a check of their form ADV in September 2018 to $650 million today. The firm launched a new performance reporting tool in September.

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