By Elie Harriett
The Medicare annual election period is Oct.15 to Dec. 7 of each year. During that period, every American enrolled in Medicare has an opportunity to enroll in, or change, their prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan.
Like every other year, the importance of revisiting a plan cannot be understated. The constant with this time of year is that your clients are being pulled in every direction due to marketing and competition.
It is important to your long-term income and your clients’ continued business that you reach out to every client you have as early as possible and make sure they know you’ll be there for them. And then make sure you get their insurance needs for the next year taken care of as soon as possible so they don’t stray.
Here are some things to keep in mind so your clients don’t begin to wander.
There is no “one company.” You must have more than one company available to your clients. I know the one company you offer is highly rated, has lots of cash in the bank, and has name recognition. But I assure you, your clients are being bombarded with advertising that shows more benefits and lower prices. They’re looking at other companies, even if you aren’t.
Have two companies. Have six. We try to have more than 20 in any single year! We have yet to find one company that can be all things to all people. Besides, when you can move a client from one company to another and your client knows that you work for them, it takes your relationship and trust to a whole new level.
Find out what is important to your clients. Every year, I am amazed at the number of people who want to switch plans and potentially harm themselves over trivial benefits. A client with a severe heart condition wants to reduce his medical benefits so he can get free dental. Another client wants to place herself in a networked plan with no doctors for 30 miles around her so she can get a free gym membership.
The reasons your clients want to move is not always obvious. Find out what they want. Focus determines reality. So if your client believes the most important thing to them is $0 generic drugs, you had better address that with them, in addition to addressing the rest of the consequences associated with getting a plan that will give them that one benefit.
If clients are being proactive, something is wrong. Find out what it is immediately! If there’s one thing I’ve learned, especially in this market: retirees will not actively make a change unless they are prompted!
We tend to think of this prompting as someone attempting to sell them an alternative plan. But with Medicare-related health insurance, that isn’t necessarily the case. When clients get their annual notice of change, it will detail what’s different. If they don’t like it, they start to look. Before you do. Make sure you let them know you’re on top of it. Because the only question will be whether they take action with you or without you.
You could lose business over something unrelated. You know how I just said that something motivated your client to act? You will be totally and completely astounded to discover that you can lose a Medicare supplement client over the increased cost of a prescription drug! Why? They are two entirely different products that are unrelated. To you. To your client, they’re the same thing.
If your client is going out to shop for a new drug plan, they could wind up with a new drug plan and a “cheaper” Medicare supplement or even a Medicare Advantage plan. In your clients’ minds, these are all one connected product called “health insurance.” That is why you must take care of all aspects of their health insurance. Otherwise you will not retain your business very long.
This is a rewarding business with a long income trail, but it is absolutely not “easy money.” You have such a short amount of time to solve every issue and fix every problem that sometimes clients’ concerns can be lost. Remember that the client is not always right, but the client is always the client. Whatever concern they have must be addressed in that short month-and-a-half window you are given to do it.
Elie Harriett co-owns Classic Insurance & Financial Services Co., specializing in Medicare-related insurance. Elie may be reached at [email protected]
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