Every year between October 15th and December 7th Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to make changes to their existing policies and change their benefits with regard to Medicare Supplement plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Prescription Drug plans. It can be an overwhelming time for seniors as they sift through all the literature that has been mailed to them, and all the plans they've been researching online.
Your clients should have received their 'Annual Notice of Change' from their insurance company. This notice will list any changes in their policy, such as possible increase in costs or coverage. The notice should compare the benefits they currently have and what they will be in 2020. Their prescription drug plans should also be reviewed at this time of year to ensure that their medications will still be covered.
As their insurance agent, you can assist them with making the best decision regarding their policies for the next year or even longer. We've laid out everything your clients can do during this enrollment period below.
So what exactly can your clients do?
There are so many options for your clients, and it can be a daunting process to assist them with their choices, but utilizing our tools and resources will help make the process smoother. Some of these tools include using our rate and underwriting tool which will allow you to cost compare Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans for them. If you don't have access to our Resource for Rates tool, you can request access and receive a 30 day trial. Our contracted agents always have full access to this tool. It's also available as an app in the App Store and on Google Play. Use your login credentials for the desktop version to access quotes on the go.
Reviewing our new Medicare & Part D Plan Finder guide will help you if you're not AHIP certified and selling prescription drug plans to your clients. It's a step-by-step guide to the newly launched site on Medicare.gov. The new plan finder has a much simpler, and user-friendly interface; however, it does encourage Medicare beneficiaries to create a My Medicare account and to login with their credentials so they can save their prescriptions. It is not necessary to have them create an account if they do not wish to; you'll still be able to assist them with their drug choices.
In some cases, your clients may already have the best plans, and they won't need to do a thing. However, this is your opportunity to review their policies and determine if they'd be better off with another plan. It also provides the opportunity to open up the discussion about other types of insurance they may need.
Reminding your prospects that using your services doesn’t cost them a dime is something that may slip your mind. When seniors are overwhelmed with phone calls and postcards before their 65th birthday, they go to the internet to research their Medicare options. And as you know, many seniors purchase their policies online directly from the carrier without any real guidance.
There is no fee for using a reputable, knowledgeable insurance agent to guide you to the best insurance decision
This one crucial element can help you secure more clients in that it shows them your value. Seniors are overwhelmed by the amount of information available to them on the topic of Medicare. And it’s not an easy topic to understand. There are so many nuances when it comes to understanding the intricacies of Medicare and the different parts, deductibles and options available to cover gaps.
Your value is that you can explain Medicare in layman’s terms and research the best options for your clients based on their health, age and state of residence. Choosing the wrong plan with a fly by night carrier is a recipe for disaster. Seniors need to understand that Medicare is not like employee-based coverage. Helping your clients and prospects understand Parts A, B, C and D is the value you bring.
Many seniors are apt to dive into a Medicare Advantage plan because of the cost savings. However, if their health takes a turn for the worse, or their network pulls out of their county, they’re in big trouble. Explaining the differences between Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement plans is a huge value add. For some, the cost savings is paramount on a fixed income, and a supplement plan is not a viable option. But for those who can afford it? Explaining that they can use any doctor or hospital they choose without being confined to a network is peace of mind for the premium they’ll pay.
The next time you approach a prospect, remind them that prices for Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans are set. There is no additional fee by using your services. It may well be the deciding factor for them.
Medicare Open Enrollment vs Guaranteed Issue Rights
Medicare Supplements (Medigap policies) have two different types of enrollment periods that don’t require you to answer health (medical) questions. These different periods of time are called a few different names which can be obscure. Here is a break down to better understand the different terms and their specific rules.
Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Open Enrollment
This period is considered your “initial enrollment period”. Thus the reason it is called your “initial enrollment period” is that many confuse the Medigap Open Enrollment period with the Medicare Open Enrollment period. Medicare Open Enrollment permits someone to change their Medicare Drug or Medicare Advantage plan each year, whereas Medigap’s Open Enrollment normally only allows you ONE guaranteed enrollment period, regardless of preexisting conditions.This period lasts six months and begins the first day of the month in which you are 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. So if you turn 65 on April 3 but don’t join Medicare B until May 25, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period will start on June 1, which is the first day of the month in which you are both 65 and enrolled in Part B. (Some States such as CA, have a 30 day Medigap Birthday rule that allows you to switch Medigap plans to an equal or lesser value than your current Medigap plan during your birth month-without answering health questions).
Medigap Guaranteed Issue Rights
The chart below describes the situations, under federal law, that give you a right to buy a policy, the kind of policy you can buy, and when you can or must apply for it. States may provide additional Medigap guaranteed issue rights.
Source: 2017 Choosing A Medigap Policy
Every year from October 15th until December 7th seniors look to make changes to their Medigap coverage. Many rush into a Medicare Advantage plan as they are affordable and often times they get automatically enrolled by their healthcare provider (with written notice).
As an advisor, it’s crucial to inform your clients about the differences between Medicare Supplement plans and Medicare Advantage plans.
| The name may have “advantage” in it, but is it truly advantageous?
Medicare Supplement plans can be very affordable. They don’t have to cost your clients thousands of dollars a year. Many seniors on fixed incomes look to Medicare Advantage plans because they see the difference in pricing. However, these “advantageous” plans change from year to year. One year your client may be covered and have their physicians and hospital of choice in network, and the following year that can all be taken away from them.
Medicare Supplement plans can never be changed or altered. Unless your client lapses on policy payments, they will never have to worry about being covered for their healthcare costs. That one, simple fact provides peace of mind for countless seniors. If given the choice to pay slightly more for a plan that will never knock them out of network, why wouldn’t they choose that option?
| Medicare Supplement plans offer freedom of choice to select any doctor…anywhere.
We believe that Medicare Supplement plans are truly the best coverage for seniors bridging the gap that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover for certain healthcare costs. The plans are stable and the carriers we offer are all A rated.
We welcome your questions and concerns, and can sit down with you and explain in detail the pros and cons of Medicare Supplement vs. Medicare Advantage. Allowing you to then inform your client with carefully considered options.
| Your clients may only get this one opportunity to make the best choice.
Posted by Carolyn Portanova
From October 15th - December 7th, you have the ability to increase your income dramatically.
Many agents write 1/3 - 1/2 of their annual Medicare Supplement business in the 4th quarter every year. Do you? Why does this happen? Additional money for the holidays?
More likely it is because of the constant Medicare Advantage Annual Election period buzz that begins in September and continues unabated until December. Tens of millions of direct mail pieces, TV, radio and print ads all help stir up the crowds.
Agents who write Medicare Supplement can capitalize on all of this free marketing by reaching out to their clients and prospects. This is an opportune time for agents to reassess their current clients' Medicare Supplement plans to be sure they still have the best plan for their needs, AND, to assist prospects with their needs.
Medicare Supplement Agent Benefits
Medicare Supplement Client Benefits
Medicare Supplement plans can NEVER be cancelled or changed by anyone other than the policy holder, although rates can change annually.
Medicare Supplement plans offer the freedom to select any doctor anywhere. The insurance company does not decide which doctors your clients must use.
Medicare Supplement plans limit the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by policy holders.
Medicare Advantage plans require policy holders to enroll each year and they receive that year's benefits, providers and cost.
Your Role as an Advisor
Our Senior Solutions Managers can offer you guidance with which plans are best for your clients' needs. They can assist you with using our quote tool to determine the best plan, depending on your clients' location, health and budget.
Our Senior Solutions Managers
Our Proprietary Quote Tool for Senior Health Coverage
To learn more about this FREE tool that provides current information and rates that are updated daily for quotes, NAIC carrier information, carrier-specific medical impairment guides for 90+ different medical conditions, and each carrier's state-specific Medicare Supplement applications, please click below. This tool is available 24/7 with an internet connection, and is complimentary to our contracted agents. However, we do offer a FREE trial access period.
Carolyn Portanova is the Director of Marketing at The Brokerage Resource and has been with the firm since 2012.