Get out there and market yourself! Part One

Wondering about marketing opportunities? Well it’s time to “Get out there and market yourself! (Part One)” Here’s my first post in a series of three about different kinds of events you can be a part of to market your senior insurance business.

I’ve got a buddy who’s been a successful senior insurance advisor here in Arizona for the past 20 years who just refuses to schedule or participate in any type of educational events. He likes to say his wife’s the social worker, not him.

I’ve attempted to change his mind about how valuable this type of marketing is — and it is marketing — but he just can’t see it. I have regaled my agent friend with the example set by a successful Las Vegas agent I know who only does educational event meetings to market himself. This guy works home and office appointments gleaned from those encounters all year long. My Sin City agent friend does at least two events a week and has contacts with just about every professional, fraternal, veteran and charitable organization in the county.

His CMS-regulated business consists of about 50 percent Medicare Advantage and about 50 percent Medicare Supplements with a Part D plan. He loves presenting final expense and add-on hospital indemnity products. Not bad for an agent who’s a senior himself. He never leaves a venue until he has answered every lingering question, and he tells me he goes through more than 500 business cards a month.

Market Yourself

“What?” you say, “you can’t sell or market at an educational event?” You are absolutely correct! The Medicare Marketing Guidelines tell us specific CMS-regulated products cannot be sold or discussed at these events (Here’s a much shorter compliance cheat sheet). While CMS does not require formal registration for these events, they are regularly evaluated by Secret Shoppers.

No marketing activity is allowed at educational events like those my Las Vegas friend puts on. What does that mean? It means you cannot steer to a specific plan, hand out marketing materials, gather Scopes of Appointment or Permission To Call forms.

So how does this agent generate leads and referrals from events?

He or she makes an announcement at the end of his or her formal presentation. Something like this does the trick: “This is an educational event, so I can’t put my business cards on the table, but some of you have asked for one. I will be at the back of the room as you leave, so if you want a card just ask. If you have any other questions just give me a call — I don’t charge for advice!”

That’s all it takes to successfully market yourself at educational events.

For more detailed training on conducting compliant and profitable events, our affiliated agents can call me at 1-800-997-3107 or email me. I don’t charge for advice, either.

Next week, I’ll tell you more about informal sales events, stay tuned!

Want to get more information on how to market yourself? We love helping you out! Give us a call at 1-800-997-3107 or watch this great webinar! Sign up for the “Make Community Marketing Work for You” webinar and go even further!

Medicare enrollment is mostly a matter of time

I’m not about to tell you the senior market is set to explode as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day in this country because I’m sure you’ve already gotten word by now. Instead, I want to remind experienced agents or those just getting started in this market that it’s mostly a matter of timing for seniors when it comes to getting the most out of Medicare.

You can strengthen your business as an agent by helping your prospective clients navigate the complex Medicare enrollment schedule. If seniors enroll without knowing about possible penalties, their decision could literally cost them for the rest of their lives.

Let your turning-65 clients know there may be penalties for not enrolling in Medicare Parts B and D.

Medicare Enrollment is a matter of time

Most seniors and agents aren’t aware Medicare enrollment is sensitive to time. In fact, the program will only let you know you are eligible to enroll if you are already on Social Security. If a senior waits until full retirement age to enroll in Medicare, he or she will probably owe a late enrollment penalty for the rest of his or her life. And as the full retirement age for Social Security inches past 65, the penalty increases, too.

If a senior does not sign up for Medicare during his or her predetermined seven-month open enrollment period, he or she has to pay a 10 percent annual penalty on the Medicare Part B premium along with a one-percent monthly penalty for Medicare Part D for every month without coverage. The good news is the penalty does not apply as long as you have some sort of credible coverage to give you a  special enrollment period to enroll into Medicare Part B with no penalty.

Not everything counts as credible coverage, either. Group coverage based on current employment does count, for example, but a group retiree plan does not. COBRA coverage doesn’t count either. Perhaps to add insult to injury, seniors have to wait until the general enrollment period (January 1 to March 31) to sign up for Medicare, then wait until July 1 to actually use the coverage.

I’ll give you an example of how these penalties might sneak up on seniors and agents:

I have an 83-year-old-client whose husband passed away on April 19. Her group retiree coverage ended on May 20. She told me that because her group retirement plan had great coverage, she never signed up for Part B. I was sure I heard wrong when she informed me she wasn’t eligible for a special enrollment period, but she was right.

When I called Social Security myself to find out why, I was told that a SEP is based on current employment — retiree coverage doesn’t count. My client has Medicare Part A, but won’t be able to enroll in Part B for over a year. I enrolled her into a Part D plan, and Medicare didn’t charge her a late enrollment penalty since she had credible coverage. But Medicare won’t budge on her Part B coverage. One worker even told her that she would have to pay the penalty for not signing up back in 1999, when she first turned 65!

Here is the real kicker though, the retiree group coverage was through the Federal Employees Blue Cross Blue Shield plan and they have provided no assistance whatsoever.

The best advice you can pass along to your clients is: Enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when you first turn 65. If you aren’t drawing Social Security, you can pay your part B premium on a quarterly basis. You will have to sign up within your seven-month open enrollment window. Part D has a stiffer penalty, but at least you have the same enrollment window.

As well all know, the good news with Part D is its Medicare enrollment period is October 15  to Dec 7 with coverage starting January 1.

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