It’s February; and as usual, the hoopla surrounding Valentine’s Day inspires me to tie my article to a heart-related theme. This year, the idea came to me in a flash a few days ago, as I was reflecting on a meeting I’d just had with a husband and wife—during which I’d received, yet again, the “typical response” I get when I break the news to a couple that one of them has been declined for coverage. “We’re a team, if the carrier won’t accept my husband, I won’t accept the coverage either,” said the wife, after a long moment of stunned silence.
When this situation arises, I respond with what I hope is a balance between empathy and professionalism. I want to be compassionate about their disappointment, but the heart of the matter is what the consequences of this knee-jerk reaction could be.
I realize it’s an immediate emotional reaction to be frustrated with the carrier, which causes an instantaneous irrational decision. This is akin to the childhood practice of playing a ball game with your friends, where the ball belongs to you. If the game doesn’t go your way, you get upset and leave, taking the ball with you and ending the game for everyone.
Usually, if I can get the couple to take a deep breath and really think about the consequences of their choice that will inevitably follow this financial decision, they calm down and realize the importance of hearing me out.
I’d like to provide my perspective—both professional and personal—on the dilemma this situation poses, for both the clients and the advisor, using this most recent response of “We’re a Team:”
Professionally, and with genuine respect for the “We’re a Team” stance, I am convinced that when one person isn’t offered coverage due to the carrier’s offer protocol, it is even more important that the healthy person accept their coverage than would be the case if the couple had both been offered coverage. What I need to get across to the newly distressed pair facing me is this:
Let’s be honest, the message you’ve just received—that one of the two of you is too great a risk for the carrier to make an offer—should immediately cause red flashing lights and alarm bells to go off. Why? Because you’re now aware that, due to known health issues, there’s an even greater potential that care will be needed than there would be if you were both offered coverage. Financially, your assets and income will be exposed to paying for the care of the uninsured spouse.
Then, what if the now-healthy spouse should need care? There could be reduced or limited funds available for that care. This should be of great concern! And of even greater concern: what if the healthy spouse unexpectedly needs care FIRST, which will require the use of those assets, leaving the uninsured spouse at a huge disadvantage, possibly with no resources whatsoever to pay for care? It’s great that you want to act as a Team, and that’s why I want to make sure you know that having a Plan to protect each other regardless of what happens is actually the “Team Strategy.”
Personally, I feel the same way, only with a more heightened and passionate stance. When your relationship/marriage is that of a team, you make decisions with your heart (emotions) and with your head (mind). This speaks to the strength in a relationship when you’ve got each other’s backs. “You need support, I’ll be your backbone.”
Consider: What would be the opposite of that “typical response” of not accepting one plan if the other partner isn’t offered coverage? In my view, the diametrically opposing position would be this: “Let’s agree that for us to have each other’s backs, we should go ahead and transfer the risk of the one that can get coverage, so that regardless of who needs care first, we have a plan – albeit not the one we wanted, but at least one that protects our assets.”
When your HEART matters, having a PLAN matters.