You Need Us Now More Than Ever
As an Independent Agent and Medicare Consultant, I build relationships with my clients that are founded on trust and integrity. I make sure clients have the right plan, plus keep in contact with them throughout the year. I am available for them to call me with any questions and give them knowledgeable answers, even if I have to research them. This includes advocacy work for my clients if there is an issue with a bill or the level or service provided. I meet with my clients once a year to review any changes in their life, to see if their current policy still meets their needs, or if they need to change it.
That relationship is not something they can get by making one phone call to a number from an ad on television. As a Medicare beneficiary, you need us now more than ever.
These days, client visits are not held in person, but by phone or by teleconference. For the past several years, the Medicare insurance industry has been working on innovative ways for clients to sign up for their policies online or by phone. Now those changes have been accelerated in order to meet the needs of Medicare patients in this time of pandemic.
There are many things you can order online, from food, to tools, to electronic equipment, to flowers. In recent years we have seen larger items like clothes, furniture, cars, and even houses purchased online. For a lot of us, these are important items that we wouldn’t thing of ordering without seeing, trying on, or making comparisons. These items have a considerable impact on your finances. So what happens if you order something and it doesn’t fit, or is not the quality you expected, or is not really going to adequately meet your needs? There is a return or exchange policy, but it may not always be that easy.
Now we are facing the same situation with Medicare plans. Television is full of commercials directing you to a web site to order your policy online. Medicare plans have a considerable impact on your finances. So what happens if you order something and it doesn’t fit, or is not the quality you expected, or is not really going to adequately meet your needs? There is a return or exchange policy, but it may not always be that easy.
As a Medicare Consultant, we have a different approach to this process. Throughout my insurance career, I have sold insurance various different ways. Some companies I worked directly for, earning a commission and sometimes a small base salary for my sales. This is known as being a Captive Agent. The goal of these agents is to sell as many of the company’s products as they can, in order to get commissions, bonuses, or even just keep their jobs. In this case, agents would always find some way to convince you that their product would fits your needs, even though it might not.
I’ve also worked in call centers, contracted by an insurance company or third party, to answer inbound calls from people who saw their product on television or received a flyer in the mail. This is known as Direct Sales, where you contact the company directly by phone or website. Sometimes call centers would even make outbound calls to potential or former customers. These agents work for a modest hourly wage and might get small bonuses. Just like the captive agents, the goal is to get clients to sign up for their company’s products and find ways to convince you it would meet your needs.
There are also small agencies where salesman can provide several product lines to a client, which is better for the consumer. However, if the agency has minimum sales requirements that have to be met, there can be some pressure on agents to sell you something that may not be the best for you, but best for the agent meeting his sales goals.
As an Independent Agent, I have the freedom to sell plans from several insurance companies, and I can sell from as few or as many companies as I choose. Every year, I am trained in all of their products I represent. With this setup, I have more freedom, which allows me to sit down with a client and do a Needs Analysis, where I get to know what your needs are and I can provide a plan that fits your needs. I even have the freedom to refer clients to another agent – in case I find the right plan for you, but it’s not one that I can provide, I can call another Independent Agent who does work with that plan and he can provide it for you. That agent most likely would send a client to me for a policy I can provide. This works out better for the client because we are providing what they need, not selling something that meets our company’s quota.
I work with (not for) a General Agency, which provides support for all the administrative paperwork, answers to questions, and reviews my applications to make sure all the necessary information is included. This is an added value to you the client, as there are a team of professionals to make sure everything is done correctly, and your policy is submitted in a timely and correct manner.
The General Agency also coordinates training seminars from the Medicare Insurance companies we work with, as well as legislators and experts in the industry, to keep our knowledge current. This is especially crucial during the Annual Election Period, each year from October 15 to December 7, which is the busiest time for Medicare sales.
With the changes brought on by the pandemic, Medicare consultants and Independent Agents are working even harder. We analyze your needs, makes sure you have the right plan that covers your doctors and prescriptions, and provides you with the best care plan within your means. We make sure you understand all of your benefits. We advocate for you and are available when you have questions or concerns. This is a relationship you won’t get with a TV ad, a web site, or a call center.
You need us now more than ever!
Will Schirmer is a Medicare Specialist and licensed agent who brings clarity to the enrollment process. Will’s past insurance experience also includes home, auto, health, accident, and life insurance – and is now focusing on his passion, which is helping people understand Medicare. Will is also part of Agents For Advocacy, a non-profit organization which provides education and support through talks, venue programs, and service support. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org