Your integrity is priceless, especially amid market uncertainty

I’m on a mission to change the perception of sales through my 6 Hours to 6 Figures platform. As a veteran of Medicare Advantage and the senior health insurance industry I know that begins with my own attitude and with my own interpretation of the sales process. I was given an especially important opportunity to practice what I preach this Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which wraps up next week.

Balancing my travel schedule with the all important duty of tending my Medicare book of business has been my focus for the past eight weeks, aka the busiest time of year for agents. I was set to touch base with around 100 clients I had picked up through running appointments and enrollment meetings during the last two AEPs for a certain carrier. 

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If you’ve been keeping up with my weekly column for The Agent’s Advantage, you know that I pride myself on service and meeting the needs of my clients by keeping in touch with them throughout the year. Doing this became a real juggling act this year as I added developing corporate training platforms to my extensive resume.

I was about to travel for several weeks, scheduled to return on October 15 for the first day of AEP. While that was cutting it close, I had my plan and strategy all mapped out — send my very own Annual Notification of Changes (ANOC) letter, reach out to my clients via Skype (international calls are expensive!), and set up a few in-home visits as needed. I expected the turnover to be minimal since they had all been very satisfied with the carrier plan’s benefits, network and service. I wasn’t planning on actively selling to new clients this year, though that is a No. 1 concern for most agents. I was out to take care of my already existing book of business. In fact, I only certified with the carriers whose plans my clients were already enrolled in.

Just as I was putting stamps on my personalized ANOC letter, the carrier announced it was exiting the Medicare business. The timing couldn’t have been worse for my business. I knew my clients wouldn’t wait for answers, even though they had plenty of time to make a transition to another plan.

With my travel and the fact I did not certify with all the carriers I needed to help my clients find a plan that would best fits their needs, I had to do what was in the best interest of my clients.

I made a compliant introduction between each of my affected clients and a trusted colleague I have also had the privilege of calling a friend for the past 19 years. I trusted this agent and knew he would always do the right thing for my clients. He helped many of them navigate their options, answered countless questions, eased their concerns and enrolled most of them into a new plan.

Many of my former clients still called me, thanking me for helping them in the past. Others asked about my wife Natalie and our children. Each of my former clients who called wished me continued success. Some said they would keep in touch on a yearly basis to ask advice as they knew more changes would come.

I view these calls as my reward for service and integrity. Don’t get me wrong — commission is still important to me, and I took a substantial loss when I did the math. I’ll be perfectly honest and say I wish the carrier could have remained in the market so I could service my clients for years to come. I know that the real test of integrity isn’t when things are going right, though. The real test is when you have to make a choice in light of challenges and you do what is right for the client.

Want to be successful? Focus on service as your mission, not commission. Your integrity is priceless and should not be for sale.  Hold on to it and remember that as you do the right thing for your clients, you will have the reward of a good reputation, their gratitude, career satisfaction and — when all the planets in the sales universe align — commission.  Enjoy the satisfaction of your integrity and know that as you serve, you deserve.


To the senior health agents struggling to expand their business with ACA: Pivot!

Have you been expanding your Medicare business into ACA? Do you feel overwhelmed by changes in the ACA market? This article will help you learn to pivot your Medicare business to continue selling!

An exercise in frustration – changes to ACA

Our Phoenix Health Plans agents in Arizona had to swallow a bitter pill last month when the carrier announced its 2016 Affordable Care Act plans are non-commissionable. (Don’t worry — PHP Medicare Advantage and Dual-Eligible plans will be paying agents for their business.) The rest of our contracted Medicare agents who have been working hard to expand their business with ACA probably threw their hands up last week when they heard United Healthcare, the nation’s largest carrier, lowered its projected ACA earnings and suggested it might exit the Marketplace in 2017. 

United Healthcare’s office in downtown Phoenix. The carrier lowered its projected earnings outlook for its ACA business this year and suggested it may leave the Marketplace in 2017. Image courtesy of CityScape Phoenix official website

Pivot Your Medicare Business

It’s obvious to say that ACA has been volatile for agents and brokers since the Marketplace opened two years ago. Carriers have been self-protective in light of the health care law’s sweeping industry changes and the simple fact it hasn’t been around that long. Agents have been overwhelmed with confusing onboarding processes, lack of specialized support and competition from the new health insurance navigators. It also doesn’t help that ACA is highly politicized and faces an uncertain future as we near the end of an administration. On the other hand, Medicare is seen as tried and true by carriers and agents alike.

Take stock and then get ahead of the changes

I’m fond of saying that being able to adjust your strategy in light of changes beyond your control is the key to surviving in this business. The situation we’re seeing as market forces and regulatory challenges put ACA agents in difficult sales environments is a perfect example of why the best agents are resilient.

On that note, I have two recommendations for agents who feel like they’re in over their heads: Leverage the better parts of ACA and pivot your Medicare business.

Don’t think that ignoring ACA is the way to deal with everything that’s been happening. As I’ve previously written, agents working with Medicare and ACA have an excellent opportunity to market their portfolio to entire families and not just to grandma and grandpa. The open enrollment period is longer than the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, which closes on Monday. It might blow your mind to know there are no stringent guidelines for marketing your ACA business, unlike the regulations you need to follow for Medicare Advantage.

Stay up to date with carrier activity and make sure you’re contracted with the right plans.

While Medicare is our primary focus here at RB Insurance, a few of the ACA plans we have available for contracting are the highest commissionable products in Michigan and Texas. Barring the serious disincentive of PHP’s non-commissionable status for Arizona agents, we have contracting opportunities with the best alternatives to the Meritus co-op plans, which are being discontinued by order of the state Department of Insurance. Thousands of Meritus clients will need help finding new coverage. If you do business in Arizona, can you see yourself offering that support as you generate Leads for your senior business?

My second recommendation is central to what makes RB Insurance stand out among the many marketing organizations out there: Turn your attention to the underserved seniors out there who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.

Why Dual-Eligible and Low Income Subsidy members?

When you work with Dual-Eligible and Low Income Subsidy (LIS) seniors, you can earn year round because of their unique statuses. A lot of agents worry that Dual-Eligibility and LIS mean more technical work or case management, but they’re overthinking it. RB Insurance has helped agents connect to these seniors for 20 years, and we’re ready to share our expertise with you. Most people who are eligible to receive assistance that could save them hundreds each month aren’t even aware there’s help out there, so the rewards for working with this market can be more than just financial.

Dual Eligible seniors and LIS recipients represent a low-competition market because many agents out there hesitate to work it. This group of seniors tend to live in rural areas or less than desirable parts of town. The fact of the matter is if you’re one of a few non-judgmental agents servicing these areas, you’re going to have a bigger share of the market and a larger ROI. Dual Eligible seniors are the ideal target market for final expense, and LIS seniors are prime for hospital indemnity cross selling. As Baby Boomers like myself age in to Medicare, a lot of them are discovering that Social Security Income is not enough to live on. Many seniors have chronic illness and need to take several prescriptions. These are the people we’re talking about — these are your potential Dual Eligible and LIS clients.

Results are in — and they are excellent indeed!

Two of our agents who pivoted their business to this market have seen phenomenal results in the past year. An agent in New Mexico earned $40,000 while working full time in the field for two months straight with direct mail marketing and community marketing. We had another agent working with Dual Eligible clients in California earn $16,000 in one week. They clearly tapped the market.

The Dual Eligible/LIS market is our favorite topic at RB Insurance. We’re happy to discuss contracting and sales opportunities one on one with agents by phone at 1(800) 997-3107, via email or in-person at our Chandler office. Stop by and learn how to pivot YOUR Medicare business today!