Aside from another market crash, health-care costs are perhaps the greatest threat to a secure retirement. Most Americans rely on some sort of employer-subsidized health insurance. When they reach age 65, they typically rely on Medicare and/or supplemental insurance. In the past, some had access to employer-sponsored health benefits, but that type of benefit is becoming increasingly rare. The net result is that more Americans than ever are going to be relying on Medicare at a time when the system's ability to pay its bills is in jeopardy.

Over the next 20 years, it is estimated that 10,000 people per day will enter the Medicare system as they turn 65. As financial advisors are well aware, Medicare is not free. There are premiums to be paid, coverage gaps, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses that can have a significant impact on retirees' financial health. In addition, it is clear to most observers that with the coming increase in Medicare subscribers, the current system is unsustainable. In the future, they will likely see reduced benefits, increased costs or a combination of the two.

Unfortunately, most Americans are woefully unqualified to analyze their Medicare options. Small minorities of advisors are well schooled in the Medicare system, but many are not.

One firm that wants to help advisors help their clients better estimate their health-care costs in retirement is HealthView Services (HVS). According to the firm's Web site, "HealthView Services is one of the few firms in the country that builds solutions for both the health-care and financial services industries to address out-of-pocket health-care costs that individuals will face during retirement."

The firm's management team has experience in both the financial services and health-care industries. President and CEO Ron Mastrogiovanni co-founded FundQuest, a provider of wealth management solutions to financial institutions (the firm was later acquired by BNP Paribas). And HVS board member Charlie Backer has more than 25 years of experience in health care, public policy and the health insurance industry. He is a former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a $2 billion, 1 million-member health benefits plan.

I recently spoke with Dan McGrath, HealthView Services' director of health-care funding strategies. McGrath formerly served as a vice president of regional sales for FundQuest. According to McGrath, "In most financial plans produced by advisors today, no information is being given about health-care costs. In most financial planning software, health-care costs represent a single line item that the advisor is expected to fill in, but nobody is actually calculating the numbers."

His firm's software, RetireMark, calculates estimated health-care costs by relying on actuarial data. The cost estimates are tailored to the individual client according to his or her specific physical condition.

To date, HVS has primarily been offering white label services to institutional clients (McGrath mentions names such as Merrill Lynch, Putnam and Nationwide). But he hopes to market RetireMark to independent financial service professionals. "The Medicare rules are convoluted," he says.

As a result, you get advisors gravitating to both ends of the spectrum. The minority of advisors who are knowledgeable about Medicare are perhaps spending too much time performing the analysis for their clients. Other advisors are not getting involved at all. HVS created RetireMark so that professionals of both temperaments can quickly and easily get a handle on their clients' likely expenses. The software can also help analyze long-term-care costs.

I recently took RetireMark for a test drive. At login, I elected to create a report covering both health care and long-term-care costs. I created an analysis for a fictional couple, "John and Sally Smith."

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