Just the facts, ma’am: Get your free appointment prep sheet

The Sarge’s favorite saying can remind you to ask your prospects detailed questions as you help them find the best senior products to meet their needs. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Free Appointment Prep Sheet

Sergeant Joe Friday of “Dragnet” fame was probably a little too brusque to succeed as an insurance agent. But the ’60s TV character did make an impact on the popular lexicon with his constant plea for “Just the facts, ma’am.” With this quip, the Sarge would direct a verbose witness to concentrate on the matter at hand.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for today’s agents.

Senior insurance is significantly more complex today than it was even seven or eight years ago. Successful agents have learned to navigate regulations pertaining to when, where and how they meet with prospects and still sell at least one product to make them a satisfied new client. Rookies, on the other hand, may get the feeling that grievances, complaints or allegation of misrepresentation are easier to elicit from a prospect than satisfaction with an enrollment after they’ve read through the Medicare Marketing Guidelines for the first time.

The plans agents can sell (after they jump through all of the contracting and certification hoops regulators and the industry have laid out for them) have also changed. Prior to 2007, most Medicare Advantage plans had robust provider directories. It was hard to find a plan that did not have the most popular doctors and hospitals under contract. Today we see more limited networks due to Accountable Care Organizations, reduced reimbursements to plans, quality initiatives and consolidations, which all try to manage program spending.

What you ask or say to your prospect makes all the difference, so make sure you get “just the facts, ma’am.”

When a beneficiary makes contact, most agents take care to fill out a Scope of Appointment form for CMS-regulated products like Medicare Advantage. Most agents usually start to ask their prospect questions after they’ve returned the Scope and proceed to check out every doctor, drug, dentist, etc. that the client wants to keep seeing in order to make a one-stop sale. The whole process becomes frenetic — Miss a provider or drug, and you risk getting an email from your favorite compliance department. Mistakes, omissions or a missed status can ruin your day.

It’s not a CMS violation to collect voluntarily shared, detailed information from a beneficiary prior to that appointment, and you will appear more professional to your prospect if you do so. Download RB Insurance’s Initial Contact Worksheet for free to help you confidently make a sale. From docs to drugs, our worksheet covers all the bases. Don’t forget Special Election Periods, chronic conditions for DSNP plans, possible Medicaid eligibility, LIS status and other determinations.

Use our worksheet or make one for yourself, but be prepared with “just the facts” to increase productivity and professionalism. Always follow CMS rules regarding collection of medication or medical history data from a client. Offer to take down information, but never insist on getting your prospective client’s information.

Click here to download RB Insurance’s free Appointment Prep Sheet to help you prepare for appointments this AEP.

Fed, states push and pull over Medicaid expansion

How the Affordable Care Act (ACA) connects Medicaid expansion to federal funding for state Medicaid programs has been subject to just a portion of the legal and political challenge as other parts of the health care law, like the individual coverage mandate or the requirement that contraceptive coverage be at no-cost to the consumer.

As Montana recently became the 29th state to expand its Medicaid program, other states like Florida, Texas and Kansas have voiced opposition to the government’s push for states to expand their Medicaid programs in order to receive funding for hospitals and doctors who treat low-income individuals.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott filed suit against the Obama administration on April 28, arguing the federal government is coercing his state to expand its Medicaid program by making hospital funding contingent on it.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that Scott believes the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that Congress does not have the constitutional power to link state Medicaid expansion with provision of full Medicaid funding applies to the Low-Income Pool (LIP) program, which gives special funding to Florida and several other states to provide care for low-income individuals. According to AP, legal analysts have said Scott’s new case against Obama administration may not be congruent with the 2012 ruling because Congress retains broad discretion over the optional LIP, which may not be an integral part of Medicaid.

The Agent’s Advantage recommends The New York Times and Kaiser Family Foundation for further reading about state-by-state Medicaid expansion.


Why you should believe in marketing money magic

I always ask the Agents I meet what they think they need to be more successful. You can probably predict the No. 1 answer I get — Leads. Then I ask them what they are doing to generate them. Most times their response is, “I can’t afford it.”

The reality is, you can’t afford not to market your business.  As I mentioned in my last post, marketing money is a seed.  When done correctly and consistently, it generates a real return on your investment. That’s why I want to share another allegory this week to make it clear to you that investing in marketing yourself is worth it.

Have you ever heard the story of the magic penny? There are several versions, but my personal favorite is the one where a boy finds a penny. The penny speaks to him, explaining that if he works hard and believes, the coin he’s holding would double every day for 30 days.

“I could buy candy with you,” said the boy.

I will buy you a couple of sticks of peppermint, but then what will you have? replied the penny.

“You are right.  I want you to grow, so I will give it a try,” the young boy enthusiastically said.

That first day he found a store owner and swept off his sidewalk to do a good deed.

“Thank you, young man, here is a penny for your effort,” said the store owner with gratitude.

The penny winked at the young boy, who was now holding two pennies, and said to him, “Continue to work and believe, and  I will continue to double.”

The story follows the boy each day as he continues following the penny’s instructions. True to its word, each day the pennies double in count. At the end of 30 days, the boy has $5,368,709.12 (Get out your calculator, it works!).

So, how does this relate to your marketing efforts?

If you work diligently and believe in your business, the money you put into even a modest marketing campaign should grow. Ask entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos of Amazon or Sara Blakely of Spanx — they put all they had into marketing something they believed in.

You can start small with investing in marketing yourself.

Take the next $100 you earn and invest it in a marketing campaign.  Work diligently and believe.  If you close even one sale from that activity, that generates a commission of $500. That means you’ve made a 400 percent profit!

Take that $500 dollars and do a 1,000 piece mailer.  Generate 5 sales.  Now you have a $2,000 profit – another 400% return!

Finally, take that $2,500 dollars and do a broader marketing campaign. Done correctly and consistently, with a lot of work and belief, that would generate another 400% return of $10,000 profit!

Believe in marketing money magic!

Have Medicare Advantage hassles got you wound up? Work the Portfolio Approach!

Over the next few months we Agents working with Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans will receive dozens of stern re-certification emails as the 2016 AHIP Medicare Training course becomes available in early June (That will be $125, thank you very much). As AHIP descends on the senior insurance industry, carrier broker managers will start gingerly inviting us to their “mandatory” annual face-to-face meetings. It’s about this time each year that an experienced Agent like myself throws up his (or her!) hands and says, “Enough is enough with Medicare Advantage!”

Indeed, how many repetitive online and live courses do we need to digest, year after year? Should I reiterate how hopelessly repetitive they are? Are the routines making us more knowledgeable Agents who better serve our clients?

It often feels like the same ol’, same ol’ each year with AHIP and other prep for AEP. Look to RB Insurance for solutions to your Agent frustrations! Image courtesy of iStock

Answer that one for yourself. And, by the way, I agree with you (I’ve been working in the senior market, in various capacities, since 1992, so I feel your pain).

In addition to these relentless education edicts we Agents must also be current with the CMS Medicare Marketing Guideline‘s annual updates. The “Guidelines” go so far as to decree what a snack can consist of at a public sales event (Please do not serve a piece of cheese with that toast or you have created a federally recognized “meal,” which is verboten.) Let’s not even get into the “Secret Shopper” situation.

Okay, maybe I went a little over the top there. If you actively engage the senior market in most areas of the country, you will miss the boat if you do not certify with some of the more competitive Medicare Advantage plans. Approximately 30 percent of America’s Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in private MA plans according to Kaiser Family Foundation, which means MA is a real sales opportunity.

Many of us who service health plan needs of seniors are willing to endure the pain that CMS and some other companies put us through each year to be officially Ready To Sell. But seriously, how might we Agents make the process more palatable? Most of us enjoy working in this demographic, after all. It’s incredibly rewarding to help a senior in navigating the progressively complex arena of health insurance. I also find that increasing my year-round sales with Medicare Supplement and Hospital Indemnity products — and even dental — and the attendant commissions usually improve my pre- and post-AEP tolerance levels.

In previous posts I have mentioned some other valuable products RB Insurance offers to affiliated Agents, and I am pleased to announce we have put together a total package for success. So let me get a little mercenary now — the following ties in with the paragraphs above and keeps my boss happy. My editor likes to call this the “Call To Action” part of my post:

RB Insurance is now actively promoting the Portfolio Approach, a strategy for achieving a 6-figure income by selling multiple products and multiple product types just in the senior market or in conjunction with your other products. Our fast-track appointment application gets you started with the Portfolio Approach, which eliminates 90 percent of the usual appointing paperwork. And we now offer our exclusive Medicare Sales Engine, a complete online sales system built by Agents, for Agents.

So pick up those contracts for AEP and year-round sales: Medigap Supplements, Hospital Indemnity, DVH, Final Expense, Life, Accident, Family, Chronic Illness, Cancer Plans, MA, PDP and many others from the 22 carriers we now partner with.

Let us make it happen for you and help relieve some of MA’s hassle!

Marketing your senior insurance business pays

When you tell someone you vacationed in Las Vegas, as I recently did with my wife, they inevitably ask if you gambled.

My answer may surprise you: No, I did not gamble. I hate losing money! Instead, I took a blackjack class. I did some research before I put my heard-earned money at risk.

This week, I can’t help but share what I learned in Vegas because of the similarities between how we can play the odds in a game of cards and how agents should approach marketing themselves. In both cases, I’m here to tell you it can pay to place a bet!

Before you spend money, allow someone to show you the ropes!

My teacher’s name was Tony, and, for some reason, I was the only student for his 15-minute session. He ran me through several scenarios, and, being naturally inquisitive, I asked questions that extended the class to 45 minutes. Armed with basic knowledge, I was more confident about approaching the gambling table.

But I still wasn’t quite ready. I spent $2 on one of those Blackjack scenario cards.
Get all the knowledge and insight you can

The little card had numbers all over it — most of them were too small to be read without my reading glasses.  The information was invaluable, and I was becoming more comfortable with the game. That little card showed me there was a scientific element to the game. 

Now that it was beginning to make sense, I — wait for it — downloaded a blackjack app on my tablet.


Prepare before you spend money

I played over 1,000 hands on the app as I sunbathed with my wife by the resort’s sparkling pool. I tried to use my instincts for the first 500 hands and was down $1,000 on $5 dollar hands. At that point, I hated gambling!

Then I played 500 hands using the $2 card and what Tony taught me in the class. I was up $750 on $5 hands as I split cards, bought insurance and doubled down. At that point, I loved gambling!

What did I do next? I finally walked up to a blackjack table with $50 of chips in hand and sat down.

You can laugh if you want to, but with my preparation and dedication to learning I felt ready to play the odds.

When it comes to marketing your business and spending your hard-earned money, I have one question:

Are you ready to invest your money into a marketing strategy and play the odds?

Trust me, I know what I mean when I say they are in your favor!

Dementia can affect how you sell senior insurance

Most of us know AARP alerts seniors about scams, fraud and identity theft that can impact their financial well-being and cause them intense stress. Some of the risks our aging population faces could affect agents and their livelihood, too, though in a different way.

Many agents have probably heard about Glenn Neasham and how just one annuity sale almost permanently damaged his career as a sales professional and put him in jail. He was convicted of felony theft under California’s Elder Abuse Law in 2011 after selling an indexed annuity to 83-year-old Fran Shuber three years prior.

The case’s main questions were whether the financial product was truly suitable to be sold to seniors up to age 85, as the state department of Insurance had previously determined, and whether the client had sufficient cognitive ability to understand its risks and benefits and not otherwise be vulnerable to manipulation. After appealing, the conviction was reversed against Neasham in 2013.

Being attentive to how well older adults grasp things and sensitively responding is the greatest respect you can show them, but it can be tricky for agents because there are no industry standards or training available to help them do so in the appointment. Contact RB Insurance for helpful tips that can help you be proactive.

I won’t go too far into California v. Nesham’s legal workings (You can read more about its complexity and drama here), but will instead focus on how agents can learn to make good judgments about clients’ cognitive health in light of the case. Being attentive to how well older adults grasp things and sensitively responding is the greatest respect you can show them, but it can be tricky for agents because there are no industry standards or training available to help them do so in the appointment. Even if it sometimes means agents may not be able to make a sale, it can protect them from getting into serious legal trouble.

Neasham argued his client showed no signs of cognitive impairment when he sold her the indexed annuity in 2008. According to the Society of Certified Senior’s coverage of the case on their blog, it did not become apparent to Shuber’s family that she may have showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease, a specific kind of dementia, until 2011. This is when her family obtained conservatorship.

Because there were no industry standards to help agents determine how well a prospect understands the risks and benefits of a product, who was to say when the client actually lost her cognitive abilities? The jury’s verdict was eventually reversed by a state appellate court, but the damage had already been done — Neasham lost his license, his house and he had to declare bankruptcy. His license has been reinstated since, but he has to completely rebuild his book of business and deal with going through six years of litigation.

This case teaches agents a valuable lesson despite the fact it was decertified or disallowed from becoming a precedent for future cases. The Society of Certified Senior Advisors and other interest groups came out with several suggestions to be proactive about client cognitive ability. Many of them are common sense and are easy to implement, such as asking your potential client to invite a family member or neighbor to the appointment to help. You can also ask simple questions like “Who is the current president?” or something similar. Consider asking your client permission to record your appointment conversation, and offer him or her a copy. One of the best ways to confirm understanding is to simply ask a client explain the product back to you. Always take copious notes, and include them in your client file or on your client’s profile within the Medicare Sales Engine. As a licensed agent, your notes are admissible in court.

The number of people who will be diagnosed with a form of dementia is expected to triple by 2050, so the issue of cognitive ability is only going to become more relevant to senior insurance agents. Elder abuse is real, and unfortunately, it’s as prevalent as Medicare fraud, waste and abuse, which agents do receive guidance and training on. Start protecting yourself now to avoid the legal hazard of signing someone up for something they may not totally comprehend or want.

Call RB Insurance at (800) 997 3107 or email me for more advice about selling to the senior market and to discover how the Medicare Sales Engine can organize all of your clients’ information for quick, simple reference.



7 reasons to make The Agent’s Advantage your go-to resource

The Agent’s Advantage, RB Insurance Group’s official blog, is updated almost daily for you to read on your computer, phone or tablet between appointments or as you get Ready to Sell for AEP. Here are seven reasons why you should make it your first stop for senior insurance sales news and special promotions.

1. Don’t sweat AEP. The Agent’s Advantage is your go-to for carrier-specific information and instructions during the busiest time of the year for senior insurance advisors. Learn more about our Medicare Sales Engine, a powerfully simple system you can use to manage your insurance business. Request your account today and start communicating with your Leads and clients like never before (By the way, its completely free for affiliated agents!).

2. AEP is not the only time for sales when you’ve got a portfolio of products. Learn how to take advantage of clients’ Special Election Periods to get the most out of your Medicare Advantage products, but don’t stop there. Appoint with best-selling Medicare Supplements, take on Hospital Indemnity or even add dental coverage to your portfolio to meet all your clients’ health needs and earn commissions year round.

3. Receive fewer emails. While some information belongs in your Inbox, such as your contract statuses and commission payments, others don’t need to take up such valuable space. We invite you to scroll more and sift less — you’ll get one weekly roundup of content each week when you subscribe to The Agent’s Advantage, and our easy to browse content may make you want to cancel some of your other subscriptions.

4. Expert sales advice from Senior Broker Tom O’Neil. Tom’s here to share wisdom he’s accrued during his 20-plus years in the industry. Writing weekly about best sales practices and simple ways to go the extra mile, Tom is also available to meet with RB Insurance-affiliated agents whenever they need help. If you’re in the area, make an in-person appointment at our Chandler office or simply call (800) 997 3107 to speak with him, one-to-one, on the phone. Email him here.

5.  Start a conversation with us. Like what you’re reading or want to learn more about something we’ve covered? Care to join our editorial staff and share your professional insight? Simply fill out our Contact form or Follow us on LinkedIn to let us know!

6. Find you authentic sales voice with Brandon Clay and learn what you need to sell to earn 6 figures. Every Tuesday, bestselling author and veteran sales coach Brandon Clay shows you how to approach sales with confidence, make the most out of marketing tools and build a portfolio that increases renewals and referrals to strengthen your business and grow your income. As you serve, you deserve!

7. Look no further than The Agent’s Advantage for regulatory news. We pay close attention to CMS, HHS and even Capitol Hill to help you navigate regulatory changes and announcements. Count on us for easy to digest Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act news that speaks directly to you as an agent.

Subscribing is easy — just click here.

GOP takes on health care programs as it passes 2016 budget, announces candidates

We’re already seeing the first real thrusts of Republicans’ strategy to take back the White House as majorities in the House and Senate pass the first Congressional budget in over five years and half a dozen of the party’s presidential hopefuls announce their campaigns for the 2016 election. The GOP has the spotlight to further its case for balancing the federal budget in part by changing Medicare and Medicaid and possibly moving closer to delivering on its promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Republican budget aims to cut federal spending by $5.3 trillion in the next decade, reducing $4.2 trillion from benefit programs that include Medicare and Medicaid. However, the Hill reports that two dozen vulnerable Republican incumbents seem to be keeping a low profile when it comes to what specific changes they would make to the programs to match the nonbinding budget blueprint. They’re not only thinking how they will counter Democrats’ opposition to their bills, but also how they will retain their voter base in the next election.

Republicans in the House and Senate are using budget proceedings and the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign to push for changes to the country’s health care program as it aims to reduce federal spending. White House image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons.

The Hill also notes that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both running for president, voted against their party’s budget plan, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio voted in line with his party weeks after announcing his campaign. Democrats predictably voted in total opposition to the budget in the House and Senate.

The Washington Post reports that under fast-track budget rules, Senate Democrats would not be able to filibuster Republicans’ attempt to vote on legislation calling for an end to ACA. However, President Obama would be sure to veto any budgetary action that would do away with his administration’s signature health care law. It’s assumed Republicans will do something to replace ACA to respond to voter concern over losing their subsidized health insurance as a result of their action.

Bloomberg News reports that Senate Republican leaders are considering legislation that would extend the ACA tax credits through 2016 in the event the Supreme Court invalidates the federal exchange later this summer.

Some Members of Congress are quietly discussing other entitlement changes related to Social Security. According to the New York Times, Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.) and Gov. Chris Christie (R –N.J.), who has said he’s thinking about running for president, have suggested “means testing” and an increase in the retirement age to solidify Social Security. An outlier in the conservative discussions regarding entitlements has been presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who promised he would “never rob seniors of what our government promised them and even forced them to pay for” in a video announcing his second run for the white House.

As we move closer and closer to the 2016 election, talk about the major health care programs and the possible political implications of action those words may inspire, however unlikely, should only get more interesting. Agents may want to pay attention to any upcoming bills dealing with Medicare, Medicaid, ACA and Social Security in case clients voice concern based on their own perusal of the daily news.

Subscribe to The Agent’s Advantage or join our professional network on LinkedIn to stay connected and informed.

Reap the benefits of investing in marketing

How much did you spend on marketing last month?

When Agents tell me they don’t think they can’t afford to spend money on marketing, I’m reminded of a story told by businessman, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn.

“I remember telling my mentor that if I had more money, I would have a better plan,” he said.

The mentor quickly responded, “I would suggest that if you had a better plan, you would have more money.  You see, it’s not the amount that counts, it’s the plan that counts.”

Most businesses wait for more revenue before they spend on marketing and Lead generation. They put it off, not realizing that marketing is the seed that will bring a harvest of higher revenue through increased selling opportunities.

Money spent on marketing is a seed. 

I turn to another inspiring quote from Rohn to see the best way to sow the seed:

“To become financially independent, you must turn part of your income into capital; turn capital into enterprise; turn enterprise into profit; turn profit into investment and turn investment into financial independence.”

For some business owners, finances are tight, they are barely making ends meet and they are nervous about spending money on marketing. So what do you do?

Start small.  Execute fearlessly and flawlessly.  Keep doing it.

I know people who spend 25 percent of their revenue on continuous marketing. They are the high-income earners who attribute their success to the money they invest in marketing and Lead generation. They aren’t lucky or fortunate; they made a decision to invest in their business above all else.

Today, I want to you decide 3 simple things:

1. Spend on marketing.

2. How much you will spend on marketing.

3. Stay committed to marketing.

Become committed to investing in and seeding your business through marketing.  Each marketing seed you plant has to opportunity to grow into your next client. The client you obtain can grow into repeat business and referrals. The harvest of those efforts will take your business to the next level.

Call RB Insurance at (800) 997 3107 or email Justin Bever, Director of Marketing, to discuss which of our custom products is best for you.



Medicare Part B deductible will no longer be covered by Med Supps

The bipartisan Medicare reform that repealed the “Doc Fix” also calls for changes to Medicare Supplement plans, which can be sold year-round and under less regulation compared to Medicare Advantage plans. Per the reform, Medicare Supplements can no longer cover the Part B deductible.

Language in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act gives a January 1, 2020, effective date for the plans to drop Part B deductible coverage, including the popular standardized Plan C and Plan F. Any Medicare member who already has a Supplement that covers the Part B deductible or enrolls before this date will be grandfathered in, meaning they will not see the change as long as they continue to pay the premium.

What’s happening now is similar to what happened when Medicare Part D was signed into law in 2003 — some Agents recall Plans I and J covered prescription costs before it made prescription coverage a major part of the senior health program.

States that currently do not approve standardized Medicare Supplement policies, which range from Plan A-N, will be prohibited from selling riders that cover the Part B deductible under the new reform.

The goal of the changes is to make seniors more conscious of the care they receive, which some have argued would lower costs by making patients think twice about their care because they now have to pay something. Research presented by the Congressional Budget Office confirms that higher out-of-pocket expense will reduce utilization, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the reform will actually save Medicare any money. The reasoning is short-term savings can be accomplished for Medicare if seniors utilize fewer medical services because of the deductible. But if some put off medical care they truly need because the Part B deductible is no longer covered, the change could potentially drive the costs up for Medicare in the long term due to lack of preventative care and an increase in more complex or serious medical conditions.

Congress has also decided to do away with first-dollar coverage starting in 2020, so it may take some time to find out if overall Medicare costs are overall reduced by using this strategy.

Editor’s note: The post has been updated to correctly report the reform’s changes to Medicare Supplements’ Part B deductible coverage. Eligibility criteria were not restructured; first-dollar coverage will be eliminated for all new Medicare Supplements members starting in 2020.

Subscribe to The Agent’s Advantage and join our professional network on LinkedIn to receive the latest updates on this and other health program changes.