Tom O'Neil's beloved puppy

Author’s Note: 

Occasionally, Charlie Ferrell the National Sales Manager at RBI/Medicare Compare asks me to whip up a blog post (read more here), often sharing stories about my years in the Medicare field.  I usually give a quick yes and just as quickly miss deadlines.  In this instance, I was challenged and intrigued when RBI Sales Coordinator Rebecca Howard suggested I write about my reasons for specializing for the last 20 years in the Medicare sales market.  At my advanced age and blessed with an overactive imagination, I thought I had self-queried on just about every subject!  But I had never really ruminated regarding my longevity in our strange and challenging business segment.  So last week, at Rebecca’s request, the introspection began!

Sharing Stories: Why I specialize in Medicare sales

Senior Agent Contributor: Tom O’Neil

My own history in Medicare

Although I had been licensed since college days in the late 70’s, it was in 1992 I reentered the insurance industry full time with FHP Healthcare in Tucson, AZ.  My job was in the appeals and grievance area due to my background with insurance and in regulatory legal areas as a former paralegal.  It was a great learning experience that led to a position with Intergroup of Arizona (later Health Net) working with the sales team and the senior programs VP.  There I worked with appeals as well as putting out the fires being regularly ignited by plan members and the state’s unfriendly press.  Finally, I moved into Medicare HMO sales in 1997 and have been there since.  Enough about me.

So why be a Senior Insurance Advisor?

Medicare Insurance product sales pays well for the hard working agent as do many vocations.  As an independent agent the hours are reasonable (except for AEP) and the work is interesting.  But as I now look back it wasn’t really the pay or the hours or the independence that kept me on the same path.  It was the people I have encountered.

My fellow agents, supervisors when I was an employee, mentors and support folks have on the whole been wonderful associates and were part of the satisfaction formula.  A lot of people took a chance on me and will I never fail to appreciate that fact.  But something was still missing while answering the question: why have I stayed in this market for so long?

Sharing Stories: The Flying Tigers

“A Chinese soldier guards a line of American P-40 fighter planes, painted with the shark-face emblem of the `Flying Tigers,’ at a flying field somewhere in China.” (NWDNS-208-AA-12X-21) National Archives Collection. Accessed 3/23/2017.

Early in my career, while still serving as a military reservist, I had occasion to run a preset appointment in a low income complex in south Scottsdale, AZ. The widow I met had only Medicare and a lot of medical bills.  Nobody had helped her get many of the benefits which she was entitled to receive.  I hooked her up with the top local HMO to reduce her costs and
got her started with what was then the Medicaid equivalent, as well as some transportation and utilities assistance.  I told her I would drop off some additional social services info on Saturday when I got off work.

Saturday came around, and I showed up to the appointment still in uniform from my reserve drill.  She said she was military “too” and took me into her kitchen and showed me a really old “Steve Canyon” comic strip from the Los Angeles Times.  It featured her late husband by name.  He had been a combat pilot with General Claire Chenault’s “Flying Tigers” in 1942 in China, fighting the Japanese Imperial Army.  She took some time to share about her husband, who had actually been awarded many medals with the U.S. Army Air Corps later in the war.  Sadly, he died shortly after the war.  As a military history buff, I was so thankful that she told me about her husband.  She was effusive in her thanks for my assisting her, but really she gave me the gift: a wonderful day.

People like that wonderful lady sharing stories have kept me in this business.

Answer: My clients

My Medicare clients can be lovely, aggravating, generous, timid, brilliant, deranged and all things found in the American fabric.  The one thing that they never are, is dull.  Each new client’s door I walk through takes me into another challenge.  Not to sell something, but to learn something.  It really seems I owe them more than I could ever pay back.  These folks have made me a better person while at the same time allowing me to pursue a career.

Do you have some great stories of why you’re an agent in the senior market? We’d love to hear them! Call us at 1-800-997-3107 or email us with yours! Interested in more about the Flying Tigers?  Read more here or here. Want to get contracted? Click here!

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