Social Security Numbers are disappearing from Medicare cards

Section 501 of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) reform  passed two weeks ago finally brings about a change to the red, white and blue Medicare cards that has been discussed for decades — about as long as Congress put off Medicare provider payment cuts in the “Doc Fix” ritual.

Yes, I am referring to removing Social Security numbers from Medicare ID cards.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act will remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. Image courtesy of

Everyone knows you aren’t supposed to carry your Social Security card in your wallet, but that’s exactly what millions of seniors are asked to do every day when they are told to carry their Medicare cards with them in case they require medical attention. Seniors are at a much higher risk for identity theft from lost or stolen Medicare cards because of this well-meaning, but misguided advice.

As the most current Medicare Marketing Guidelines tell us in Section 60.2, roughly 54 million people have Medicare. Approximately 30 percent of Medicare members are enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans, whose regulations prohibit the use of Social Security numbers for identification purposes. That means over 36 million seniors are still walking around with their Social Security Number in their wallet or purse, just waiting for some rapscallion to steal their identity. It isn’t just lost or stolen cards either: Data breaches involving Social Security numbers leave millions at risk too.

The reform provides $320 million from the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund to be used over the next four years to establish a system that replaces Medicare members’ Social Security numbers with randomly generated numbers for identification purposes. Basically, Medicare is doing what the railroad retirement board and  everyone else has been doing for years.

There’s even talk of embedding a chip in a newly designed Medicare smart card to be used in place of printed identification information.

Who knows? Maybe Medicare can get on board with the Apple Watch. Or maybe accessing Medicare will one day mean walking around with a chip embedded in our arms that can be scanned so we won’t have to wait in line to show a red, white and blue card.

The SGR reform has already made several changes for Medicare providers and members. Stay connected to Agent’s Advantage and RB Insurance’s all-new LinkedIn to stay informed. Next week I’ll be going over changes being made to Medicare Supplements.

Producer Profile: Successful Medicare agents market themselves in more than one way

Medicare cost-sharing

RBI National Sales Manager: Charlie Ferrell

Charlie started his senior insurance career after a brief 30-year stint in the restaurant industry. In the 12 years since then, he has been blazing trails and setting standards for excellence all over! A native son of Utah, he has been a state manager for RBI as well as a managing general agent for UHC, Coventry, Molina and other carriers! Charlie came to RBI as the National Sales Manager in 2015, and is an invaluable resource for our agents and staff for marketing, compliance, and sales topics! Charlie’s field experience with senior insurance sales has made him an expert in our insurance CRM: Medicare Sales Engine. If all of that wasn’t enough, Charlie specializes in the Dual-Eligible market and is leading the charge behind RBI’s new “Dual Eligibles for Newbies” seminars!

Successful Medicare Agents market themselves in more ways than one

Today I want to highlight three outstanding examples of our affiliated agents’ success as we get ready for our 3rd annual, Sales Champion Summit. These Medicare agents come from different backgrounds, but all of them have three common strengths: They’re driven to succeed, they go the extra mile for their clients and each of them are able to take advantage of different opportunities to market themselves.

Jim: The Man, the Myth, the MACHINE

Jim has been an insurance agent for over 30 years. He started out as a Farmers agent working with his father in Kansas City, Mo. After his father passed away he started his own successful marketing company, but missed interacting with clients. Jim got back into the insurance business a few years later and has steadily been growing his sales since.

He has over 900 clients and is still actively selling. Because he loves to travel, Jim has combined it with his passion for serving low-income seniors. He has been working out of state to help deserving people while he checks out new places on a regular basis. Jim typically enrolls between 10 and 20 new clients each month, mostly by sending out discounted Business Reply Cards and advertising in free local papers. He sets up a Bingo event at least once a month to keep his name on his clients’ lips as they refer friends and family.

Rich: Gotta pay for the kids

Richard has been working in the senior market for more than 10 years and loves every minute of it. He loves to travel, too, but keeps things local in Arizona, driving from Prescott and Globe all the way to Tucson to meet with prospects and clients. You could say Richard really gets around. He works year round, selling hospital indemnity products to compliment his Medicare Advantage portfolio.

He also has what he calls two seasons: Summer is for Medicare Supplements, and fall is for Medicare Advantage. Richard loves to do seminars in the fall because they’re an easy way for him to reach a large audience quickly. He carefully schedules his seminars around the Annual Enrollment Period to leave enough time after events to answer personal questions and follow up with in-home visits when needed. Richard usually targets his seminars to under-served, outlying markets that rarely have Medicare presentations. They truly appreciate the time and expertise Richard brings to their communities.

Susan: I’ll never retire

Susan has also been around for a long time. She is passionate about her work and her clients and is now a senior herself. She hasn’t let that slow her sales down at all, though. Susan finds that clients find her more relatable, which explains why most of her business now comes from referrals and word of mouth. She augments this most fundamental marketing strategy with mailers from RB Insurance’s Medicare Compare brand as well. Her target market is looking for Medicare Supplements, but she also sells Medicare Advantage plans in the fall during AEP. When she’s not in the field as an agent, Susan loves to volunteer and help other small businesses in her community. Susan earns clients’ trust by being careful not to mix Medicare and senior insurance discussions with her volunteering so she does not violate the Medicare Marketing Guidelines.

As you can see, each of these agents have three different personalities and strategies for introducing themselves to dozens of potential clients. Each of them use simple marketing techniques to expand their customer base, ranging from newspaper ads to volunteering with a nonprofit organization supporting seniors who may also be looking for a great health plan. These affiliated agents go above and beyond by helping out in their communities. Give me a call for tips on how to succeed in the Medicare market, 1-800-997-3107!

Medicare cost-sharing
USA Senior Care Network
2019 AHIP

Hospital indemnity coverage is not minimum essential coverage

Hospital indemnity plans, often referred to as HI, have become a valuable add-on for many Medicare beneficiaries. With Medicare Advantage plans’ increasing copays and coshares, these HI options can be a relatively inexpensive solution for your senior clients. Yet seniors are not the only ones who can benefit from HI — you have the opportunity to sell these plans to younger prospects who are not eligible for Medicare.

Your non-Medicare clients may also benefit from a hospital indemnity plan. Just make sure clients have a health plan that fits minimum essential coverage requirements before you write. (Image courtesy of iStock)

Make sure your non-Medicare client is enrolled in a health plan that meets the minimum essential coverage guidelines as defined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) before you write. All Medicare clients enrolled in Medicare Part A or who have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan are deemed to have minimum essential coverage. The on-exchange and off-exchange ACA plans also meet the guidelines, as do most of today’s employee group plans and a limited number of other health plan types.

If your non-Medicare client does not have a plan that complies with the minimum essential coverage guidelines, you should not write him or her a hospital indemnity plan. The carrier will most likely not issue the policy, which would result in a declined application and a disappointed client. An explanation of CMS’ regulation and guidance on the matter is available — start at page 54 after clicking on the link.

RB Insurance works with numerous carriers offering Hospital Indemnity coverage, including GTL, Equitable, Medico and others. Visit our Carriers page to find immediate contracting opportunities.

RB Insurance-affiliated agents can explore the excellent commissions HI can generate with our available online training and one-on-one training. Call (800) 997 3107 or email me for more information.

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Top 10 Tools for the 6-Figure Advisor: Part 2

Up to now, the first five tools have been what most people would expect — everything from products, training and Lead opportunities. These are the foundation of every successful senior insurance advisor. As my experiences have shown me, it’s these next five tools that separate potential partners from the pack and give you the power to go the extra mile.

6. A Client Relationship Manager (CRM)

How you manage your Book of Business is just as important as writing it to begin with. Sure, the sale you make today is next month’s mortgage, but the key to repeat business, referrals and ongoing renewals from this newly secured client is in how well you serve them. A robust CRM makes the average senior insurance advisor 50 percent better! Higher retention; accurate closing rate (How can everyone be closing 60 percent?); the ability to monitor, measure and manage your precious marketing dollars can all be done with a CRM from your computer, smartphone or tablet. This is the tool of the 21st century, so get on board now!

  • Pop Quiz (yes, another one!): Can you produce your Book of Business? Can you separate your clients by product? Can you send out communications and newsletters by email or mail merge to alert clients about annual changes or new products? My straw polling says that less than 10 percent of you can do this. In fact, if your Book of Business is in a heap in the back of your car, you need this tool!

7. Product quoting software

Imagine this scenario: Your client calls to tell you that another Agent has a cheaper life insurance policy, so she’s considering changing to save on premium or increase face value. Do you panic? No, not you! You pull her information down from your CRM, add in some search criteria (Yes, as you talk to her on the phone — impressive, right?), and in a few moments several carrier options appear. You click a button, and the application populates for you to input her information for a face-to-face meeting. Ahh, but you are not done yet. “Ms. Jones, with the saving on the new policy, I can help you with the cost of hospitalization. I know that has been a concern of yours. I can handle them both when I see you next week, okay?”

  • Pop Quiz (Last one — I promise!): Are all your quote tables up to date? Are you afraid to quote Medicare Supplements because you have never sold them and don’t understand all the criteria? Do you only have one company (maybe not the best one?) loaded on your smartphone with rates? My straw polling says that you are overwhelmed by all the things that come with accurate product pricing. Wouldn’t it be nice to let your computer, smartphone or tablet tell you?

8. Business submission

Where is your pager? How ’80s is that. What about your fax machine? That tone is going away for business submissions, and sooner rather than later. If you are not tapped into the new business submission methods ranging from online applications to tablet apps, then you are already behind. A few years ago, some carriers paid more for electronic submissions when this action was allowed. In the next few years, senior insurance advisors who can’t submit electronic business will be extinct (Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!). The best partners have tools for seamless and easy to use business submission and training for those who need it. Make no mistake, nothing happens until there is a sale, but be prepared to turn it in a different way. Grow with the times!

9. Commission Reconciliation

If you sell more than a few policies (I hope so!), then you need to make sure you are being paid fairly and accurately. The whole point of what you do is revenue for your family, your needs and desires. The carriers want to be accurate as well (Really, they do!), but sometimes, they need help. Based on the Book of Business pop quiz, most Agents are ill-equipped to fight commission battles since they are unarmed with the right information. Imagine that your CRM had all of your client information that your back office support team could use to help you get paid accurately. Automation is powerful and is the key to ensuring you get what you have earned. Lifetime renewals for some products make this mandatory!

10. Industry Updates and Insight

Do you know what Congress is doing right now (No, not a trick question!) or what changes may occur within the various products we represent as senior insurance advisors? I pride myself on staying abreast and reading everything I can but the changes move faster than I can. Case in point, many Medicare Advantage Agents didn’t know they were not going to be paid on AEP sales in January until December. Yikes! This stuff isn’t always sexy, but as Tom Cruise says in the movie The Firm, “It has teeth!” As a professional with clients and renewals to protect, it is your responsibility to remain connected and stay in the loop. The best partners help you do that with relevant communications that boil the environment down to the vital information!

Are you looking for a good partner? A value-add FMO or Agency? Then you need to take this list and ask them how many of them they do and make them prove it! If I were beginning a partnership and wanted to ensure mutual success, these Top 10 Tools of the 6-Figure Senior Insurance Advisors would be non-negotiable “must haves.”

Be encouraged! There are good partners out there who are loaded with best-in-class tools.

Until next time, I wish you Money, Power, Success!

Corner the Arizona senior market with RB Insurance

Snowbirds love to nest in Arizona — you know, retirees who flock to our state during winter to escape the polar vortex. And we’re all familiar with Sun City, the town northwest of Phoenix and Peoria that was planned just for seniors. More of our neighbors are relocated Michiganders or Illinoisans than true natives.

Many of these folks plan a road trip to see the country and end up moving here because they fall in love with our warm — We’ll go with “warm” —temperatures and breathtaking sunsets. However they get here, Arizona welcomes a steadily aging population, and that means a great selling opportunity for those in the senior insurance market.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder, 14.4 percent of Arizona’s population is 65 or older, which is just slightly above the national average of 14 percent. Over 1 million people in Arizona are eligible for Medicare, with over 100,000 new beneficiaries being reported in the last five years, according to Census 2013 estimates.

How many of these prospective clients have you served?

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Medicare market, Medicare Supplements are available to help with medical costs not covered by Original Medicare. Nationally standardized Plans A through N have monthly costs ranging from $37 to $300. The more coverage you want, the more expensive the policy will be. Plans C and F are the most popular and have reasonable premiums for the benefits they provide.

Medicare Advantage plans are a great alternative to a Medicare Supplement, but have cost sharing that varies widely between carrier plans. There are Special Needs plans available to help those with chronic conditions, and Special Needs plans cover those who have both Medicare and Arizona Medicaid, whose short name is AHCCCS. These deserving populations are generally underserved. Most of them make below the federal poverty guideline of $980.  The Census bureau estimates there are over 120,000 people over 65 making less than $1,200 a month in Arizona.

If all you sell is Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplements, you’re missing a major revenue stream. I know of only two certainties in this life: death and taxes. This is why a final expense or burial policy can help you go the extra mile for your clients out while expanding your Book of Business. We all know that at some point in time we pass on, so if you, as an Agent, can help someone understand the costs associated with a funeral and plan for those costs, you’ve truly made the world a better place.

As someone who has had to plan two funerals in the last 18 months, I can’t tell you how much a burial policy helped out. If you can eliminate the cost of the casket, funeral service, etc., it makes a loved one’s passing much easier for your client — financially at least — to deal with. However, these important considerations are only part of the final expense equation. When you sell one of these policies, make sure you include something that empowers your clients to either start a dialog with their loved ones so they can go over what they want to have happen when they pass on, or let them put their wishes in writing. If you work with a funeral home as an Agent, you can get some of their folders they hand out to write down who your clients want notified, where important papers are located, what music they want at their service, if they want a service and who they want to be their pallbearers. These are all great opportunities for showing clients you offer insurance products that can take care of all their needs.

Welcome to the Arizona market. Bring your sunscreen.

This is the first in a series of posts about RB Insurance’s recruitment efforts in our home state as we prepare an exciting series of events for potential Agents. Next week I’ll post some examples of successful Agents serving the Arizona market before we launch our campaign.

Online enrollment is the new normal for Medicare Supplement sales

I’ll say it again: Online enrollment is becoming the new normal for the Supplement business. While some documents must be left with your client based on state and carrier regulations, these e-enroll systems eliminate most of the need for constantly reviewing paper forms that Agents have carried to appointments for decades. Many carriers offer easy-to-use, downloadable enrollment programs for desktops and laptops. Tablet apps can be used with Internet for immediate submission or offline for use when a Web connection is later available. 

Most large carriers and even some smaller companies have developed outstanding apps in the past few years. Some of the benefits of using them to enroll prospects are:

  • Immediate Submission.
  • Rapid plan approvals.
  • Reduction in paperwork errors.
  • Improved document compliance.
  • Faster commission payout.
  • Convenient and accurate record keeping.

Converting a prospect into a client has clearly become more seamless thanks to carriers’ adoption of the newest technology. In fact, many of the Medigap carriers that partner with RB Insurance have been busy enhancing their online enrollment programs. Humana, Equitable, Medico, Aetna and Mutual of Omaha are just a few. Most local and national Medicare Advantage and PDP providers have also been tweaking their online and offline enrollment processes while readying for the next Annual Enrollment Period, which starts in October. You can start a fast-track appointment request now if you’re already interested in getting Ready To Sell for these carriers.

United Healthcare recently announced the latest enhancements for its online AARP Medicare Supplement enrollment tool. Webinar training schedules are available on United’s broker portal.

Not to be outdone, we’re seeing Agents utilizing online enrollment capabilities with a number of carriers offering varied plan options such as Hospital Indemnity, Senior Life, Cancer, Short Term Care and Accident policies. Our Affiliated Agents have reported that enrollment apps developed by companies such as GTL, Medico, TransAmerica, ARLIC (the Cigna Healthspring Medicare Supplement) and others make the enrollment process increasingly efficient for Life and Indemnity products.

Don’t be shy about using technology in an appointnment — it can make what you do as an Agent much simpler.

Affiliated Agents can contact our office at (800) 997 3107 for assistance in accessing training for any of our+ carriers’ online enrollment tools.

Subscribe to The Agent’s Advantage to get even more tech tips, including How to build a Compliant Medicare marketing website that works.

“Doc Fix” is no more: Senate approves Medicare reform

The bipartisan Medicare reform passed by the House on March 31 was approved by the Senate Tuesday in a 92-8 vote. The reform puts and end to the unpopular Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and nearly two decades of Medicare provider pay cut procrastination that came to be known as the “Doc Fix.” Congress put off a 21 percent cut to Medicare providers’ pay one more time as the reform awaited Senate approval with little or no change — cuts originally scheduled for April 1 will not go into effect on April 15, the Senate’s deadline for acting. President Obama has said he is eager to sign the bill into law.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the reform’s official name, replaces the SGR with a new payment system and new financial incentives for physicians to see Medicare patients in a more quality-based arrangement, the Associated Press reports. It also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next two years and makes changes to Medicare Member payments and Medicare Supplement plans.

The Agent’s advantage recommends USA Today, The New York Times and The Hill for further reading about the Senate’s discussion of its vote.


Look to the star ratings for more Medicare sales

If you’re not looking to the stars — that is, the Star Ratings available for each Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plan offered by a carrier  — to increase your sales, now’s a great time to start. A recent article from Avalere Health confirms what some Agents may have already been observing: Medicare Advantage Members gravitate to plans with higher star ratings, which typically means four or five stars.
The Medicare Program Star Ratings range from 5 stars to 1 star, from Excellent to Poor.

For the 2016 list of CMS’ plan rating criteria visit CMS’ website. The star ratings for all Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plans can accessed on the Medicare plan finder, which I wrote about last week.

Aries is a five-star constellation, but not a five-star Medicare plan. Use the Star Ratings available for each plan to educate your clients and increase their confidence in finding the highest-quality plan to seal the deal.

According to Avalere, 60 percent of Medicare Advantage plan Members now belong to plans with four or more stars. There are some logical reasons for these results: Under the Affordable Care Act, plans rated with four or more stars receive Quality Bonus Payments (QBPs) from CMS. QBPs may vary from $65 to $105 per member per month (usually noted as PM/PM) in a county with an average plan bid of $900 PM/PM. Plans awarded QBPs may use these CMS incentives to enhance Part D benefits, fund extra benefits, reduce copays or, in some cases, reduce Part B or Part D premiums.

For 2012 – 2014, 3 and 3.5 star-rated plans received adjusted QBP payments under a CMS demonstration authority. Those plans now rated with 3.5 stars or lower will no longer reap the benefit of the QBP payments. Star Ratings reflect many categories of plan performance so it is expected that CMS’s star rating program will improve the overall excellence of Medcare Advantage plans.

Agents can enhance their sales presentations and bring critical information about a plan’s quality to their clients by reviewing Star Ratings and explaining in detail how the ratings reflect plan performance. Plans rated with 4 or more stars offer the agent an attractive sales advantage over lower rated plans.

Affiliated Agents who would like additional information on how to educate their clients and enhance sales with Star Rating information can call (800) 997 3017 or email me to schedule a short and informative briefing regarding Star rating use in the sales presentation.

Top 10 Tools for the 6-Figure Advisor: Part 1

For 15 years of my professional career in senior insurance, I worked directly for health plans. Sometimes I had big budgets and generated big revenue. Other times, I worked for startups with no money, and I still generated big revenue.

What I have learned from my range of experiences is that necessity, ingenuity and imagination are a powerful combination to make it happen!

“We will either find a way or make one.” Hannibal

That’s the mindset you have to have with your business (You are running a business, right?).  Even with no money or capital in the bank, you can take your business to the next level.  I am not talking about making ends meet, I am talking about 6-figure success that comes from excellence in service (See Secret #4 from my recent 6 Secrets of 6-figure senior insurance advisors series!).

What makes sales scary for most people is unpredictable income. Month to month it feels like “round and round the commission goes, where it stops, nobody knows!” Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.

Can I tell you how to get off of that merry-go-round and make your business sustainable, scalable and stable?

Build or tap into a system.

The one consistent thing I’ve experienced for the last four years of bringing corporate concepts to the kitchen table is that systems make it better for everyone. Systems are the key to creating billion-dollar companies, and they are also the key to helping you consistently generate 6-figures.

A system comprises many tools.  Here are my Top 10 tools for the 6-Figure Senior Insurance Advisor:

1. A proven business model

  • The best systems will help you outline your O.S.T — Objectives, Strategies and Tactics. There are elements of sales that everyone must do (prospecting comes to mind), and then there are things that only your unique personality can define, like connecting with clients. The best business systems give you a track to run on that help you with day-to-day activities, but allow you to do it in a way that is best suited for you.  Don’t reinvent the senior insurance advisor wheel — move the wheels of progress by tapping into an existing system.

2. Product systems

  • The volume of email blasts that we all receive is filled with vast array of products and opportunities. Make no mistake — many of them are good products and could be a valuable addition to your basket of goods. The other reality: Who has time to filter through all of this and get to the heart of what will make a difference to his or her clients? A good product system has an “at a glance” way for you to determine if a product is good to invest the time and energy it takes to contract and sell.
  • Pop Quiz: How many products do you have contracts for? How many bring you sales? My straw polling over the past several years suggests you have submitted business for only 20 percent of the contracts that you hold. Am I close?

3. Sales training and development

  • Think about the last three webinars or online sessions you attended.  I could probably guess they dealt with certifications (AHIP), continuing education to keep your license or some type of product training (features, features, features!). Nothing wrong with any of these, but most of what you have been spending time on are in place to get you Ready To Sell, but don’t train and develop you on how to sell. The key to generating more business and leveraging tips #1 and #2 is specific sales training programs (yes, like 6 Hours to 6 Figures!). The best in the business always look for ways to get better and self-development. Hey, they are tax write-offs, too!

4. Lead generation and business development

  • “I could sell more if I had more people to see.” Sound familiar? FMOs and agencies want you to sell more, too (they don’t call it an override for nothing!), and many have turn-key Lead generation programs that can help you jumpstart your business. FREE LEADS? Sure, they exist, but they’re not a system or program you can depend on. People value (and work harder) when they have skin in the game. A good system helps you generate activity if you have no money but expects you to share in the building of your business as your revenue increases. Fair. Equitable. Synergistic!

5. Carrier marketing and Lead programs

  • With the number of carriers now offering all types of products, the way they get the FMOs and agents’ attention is through co-op opportunities and other direct Lead generation activities. Many carriers (particularly Medicare Advantage carriers) don’t want the overhead expenses of full-time sales people (makes sense!). What do they do with the Leads they generate? They pass them down to FMOs/Agencies that have distribution and management systems in place. Imagine earning a good first-year commission and lifetime renewals from a lead that was generated by the carrier. Sweet!

Next time, we look at the other five tools of the 6-figure Senior Insurance Advisor.

Until then, I wish you Money, Power, Success!

Call (800) 997 3107 to learn more about RB Insurance’s Lead generation programs, including our Massive Response Mailers that are 15% off until May 1.