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2018 Medicare Part A and B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

November 27, 2017 - 12:49pm

Last week CMS released the Medicare Part A and B premium, deductible, and co-insurance amounts for 2018.

The Part B premium will not increase and will remain at $134 for 2018. This premium will apply to new enrollees, individuals who are not currently receiving Social Security benefits, and those who currently pay more than the standard premium due to an IRMAA. Those who are already enrolled in Medicare Part B and who are currently receiving Social Security benefits and are not subject to an IRMAA will likely not be charged the full premium, but may still see a premium increase due to the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment for 2018. Beneficiaries who are impacted by this “hold harmless” provision who want to find out exactly what their premium will be for 2018 should contact Social Security directly.

The Part B deductible will remain at $183 for 2018, the same as in 2017.

The Part A deductible and coinsurance amounts can be found in the table below.

Inpatient hospital deductible $1340 Daily coinsurance for days 61-90 $335 Daily coinsurance for lifetime reserve days $670 Skilled nursing facility daily coinsurance for days 21-100 $167.50

You can view the complete CMS fact sheet by clicking here.

What to Know to Market at AEP

September 19, 2017 - 1:24pm

While AEP is the source of most of an agent’s Medicare Advantage business for the year, it’s also the time of year when every agent is working, including the ones you might not be competing against during lock-in. This means it’s that much more important for you to make the most of the marketing opportunities you have available.

Brand Yourself

Insurance is, more than anything, a relationship business. Think about what sets you apart from an agent down the street who could offer a client the same products. Have you been involved in the community for a long time? Do you have a deep knowledge of a particular set of products? Do you offer a wide variety of products to provide a one stop shop for clients? Once you figure this out, incorporate it into your advertising, office signage, business cards, and your introduction to potential clients and colleagues.

Generate Leads

If you’re still building your book of business, simply buying leads from a direct mail or online lead company is a great way to get started. Direct mail leads are generally the least expensive, but have a lower response rate, whereas online leads are more expensive but are more likely to lead to a sale. In many cases you can narrow down the demographics to particular zip codes, ages, and income levels to help you focus on exactly the prospects you want.

If you already have an established book of business, whether from Medicare or other products, AEP is a perfect time to get in touch with them. By sending your clients a letter or even giving them a personal call to let them know that you’re available and can help them with their Medicare plan needs, you can help your retention with any existing Medicare plan business, as well as generate referrals from your clients’ family and friends. Remember that you should also be planning a review with your existing Medicare Advantage clients during AEP, since their plan availability and benefits can change every year.

Another option for generating new business is to hold sales events in your community. These are public events where you invite prospects to either come to a presentation on Medicare and the benefits of a particular plan or plans, or to drop by a table or kiosk during a particular time to ask questions or get information. These events need to be filed with CMS through carriers with which you’re contracted, and you must follow the CMS guidelines for registering, advertising, and conducting these events. Each carrier’s requirements for conducting sales events can vary, so it’s important that you’re familiar with the process for each carrier with which you work. You can view our guide to deadlines and other info about registration here. If you have any questions about sales events, feel free to email our team at events@agentpitstop.com.

Leverage Your Community

Are you involved in your local Chamber of Commerce, small business association, Lion’s Club, or other community group? Those groups and relationships are a prime opportunity for you to reach out and market yourself as an available resource. That kind of visibility and good will can be a great way to generate referrals as well as making your other marketing that much more effective. People are more likely to want to do business with someone who is seen as a trustworthy and active member of their community than someone with whom they’re not familiar.

AEP will be here before you know it, so get out there and sell!

Time to Get Certified!

August 28, 2017 - 10:21am

Here at Agent Pitstop we want you to have a successful AEP, and getting certified is the first step. Below you will find tips to get you started on the right foot and get you ready to head into AEP with minimal hiccups.

2018 AHIP certifications are now available, so if you haven’t completed it yet, don’t wait! It will be much easier to get it done now instead of when we get closer to AEP. Make a date and time for yourself where you clear your schedule for a few hours to get it done. Did you know that most carriers will provide a $50 discount if you complete your AHIP through them? Some carriers also offer reimbursements for even more of the cost if you write a minimum number of applications. Check the agent portals of carriers you work with to see what they offer, and watch your email for announcements of any special programs.

If you’re not already, you should make a habit of checking out our certifications page. Here you can find links to the online carrier certifications, as well as schedules and information on in-person certifications. For certain carriers you can RSVP through us by e-mailing rsvp@agentpitstop.com. You’ll need to send us your 2018 AHIP, current license, and current E&O to RSVP. Even if you’re not RSVPing for a training, we appreciate getting your current documentation as soon as possible so that we can keep our records up to date.

If you don’t complete your certifications on time, there can be some real consequences for you and your business. If you don’t certify, you cannot write that product at all for the upcoming plan year and you won’t be paid on your renewals, which is enough reason for most of us to go ahead and get it done! So, even if a plan has left your area or you just no longer want to write for that carrier, you still need to recertify or risking losing out on renewals that should be yours!

It’s also worth it to get certified as early as possible, because until you’ve finished your certification, you can’t access enrollment kits, marketing materials, or other resources provided by carriers. Plus, certifications are one of the simplest things to complete early.

If you have any questions regarding certifications, please give us a call at (800) 723-5228.

Do you have a client on an AARP Medicare Supplement?

June 23, 2017 - 9:37am

Here are some important facts you need to know about them switching from one AARP Medicare Supplement plan to another AARP Medicare Supplement plan with an effective date of July 1, 2017 and later.

  1. Current members with plan effective dates between June 1, 2010 and June 1, 2017
    • Members in this range looking to change from say a Plan F to Plan G, will ignore the rates laid out in the enrollment kit. To get your member an accurate rate, you will need to refer to the plan change rate charts, which you can find here.  Also, for these members their current 10-year enrollment discount structure will be applied to their new plan.
  1. Current members with plan effective dates before June 1, 2010
    • Members with plans effective before this date looking to change from say a Plan F to Plan G will require a new application to be submitted. You will treat these just like a new sale, meaning underwriting and rating rules will apply.
  1. New members looking to get a plan with an effective date of July 1, 2017 or later
    • You will use the new July 1, 2017 enrollment kit and rate pages. Again, underwriting rules will apply and obviously, a new application must be submitted.  Once accepted, these new members will receive the new Enrollment Discount.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (800)723-5228.

Bonus Programs and Structure

June 21, 2017 - 2:21pm

Most companies have bonus programs to help you earn extra cash. Before you start planning your next trip to the Caribbean with all of this newly acquired money, make sure you check out the details of each program.

THE FINE PRINT <—That’s what I am talking about. You need to pay attention to get paid. Make sure you are reading the fine print for each of these programs because you will notice that they differ from carrier to carrier. Policies will only count towards bonus qualification if they meet the requirements, such as the effective date of the policy, whether the policy is underwritten, or which plan it was. You must make sure you are reading the details.

KEEP TRACK OF YOUR APPS!
I cannot say this enough. You may have to submit a form to collect your extra bonus, and you will be out of luck if you were not keeping track. Even if you racked up thousands of dollars, it is your job to keep track of the apps you are submitting, so make sure you are doing so.

Get to Know Your Carriers

June 16, 2017 - 12:09pm

We want you to take a moment and answer a couple questions. (We promise these are easy.)
1. How many carriers are you appointed with?
2. How many of their websites have you been to?

The reason we ask is there is a whole network of information on those carrier websites.
• Detailed information about their products
• Live chat
• Direct phone numbers for Agents Only
• Material ordering (that sometimes goes straight to your house)
• Promo ordering
• Insurance Resources
• Contact forms
• Specials/prizes/events

With AEP right around the corner we think it would be a great time for you to familiarize yourself with the companies that you are appointed with. By doing so, you have all the knowledge you need to give potential clients.

Need some help finding your carrier website? Type the carrier name in the search bar of your preferred internet search engine and the carrier you are looking for should pop up on the top of your search.

With that being said, we have another great reference for you to use:

That’s right. Agent Pit Stop. Did you know that on our webpage you can:
Click on the CLIENTS tab to see all your clients, plus you can see all upcoming birthdays. Making it easy for you to give them a phone call, send a card, or let them know of plans that may be more suitable to their health needs.

Under the CONTRACTS tab you can see which documents we have on file and when they are expiring, plus you can request contracting information for carriers you may not be appointed with.

The RATES tab has a search engine for you to use to better prepare you for your appointments. It helps your clients know the most updated rates that are available.

The BILLING tab will show any balances you have with Van Berg.

The COMMISSION STATEMENTS tab will show you exactly that. What date you were paid, the company/companies, and a file to download of the statement for that date.

The SECURE EMAIL tab is for those who would like to sign up or log in to their secure email page.

Last, but not least, the BLOG tab. Keep up to date with information about carriers, helpful tips, changes in insurance, and other information that may be pertain to the business.

As always, if you cannot find what you are looking for here and still need additional help, we have several people in the office to help point you in the right direction. Please do not hesitate to call us at (800) 723-5228.

Guide to Medicare Part C and D Enrollment Periods

February 21, 2017 - 4:07pm

One of the most common questions an agent has to answer is “when can I enroll?” Because there are a wide variety of situations, CMS has created a handy chart to help you determine the options available to a client.

enrollment periods

You can click here to view and download the full document from Medicare.gov

Should Medicare Add a Long Term Care Benefit?

July 1, 2016 - 1:13pm

One of the biggest misconceptions many have about Medicare is that it will cover their potential long term care needs. While Medicare may provide some coverage for this type of care, there are significant limitations. As a result, most people who need long term care will still be forced to pay for it out of pocket, or through Medicaid or a private long term care insurance policy.

If Medicare were to add a true long term care benefit, what would it look like and how would it work? A proposal recently published by Health Affairs?presents several interesting ideas on how to integrate a long term care benefit into the existing Medicare framework.

In-home care – The core of the proposal is built around an in-home health care benefit that would be available to anyone with dementia or who cannot perform two of the Activities of Daily Living on their own. There would be a daily benefit limit, similar to private long term care insurance. The focus on in-home health care keeps with the growing trend towards “aging in place”, which allows seniors to continue to live at home as independently as possible even as they need additional supportive services.

Integration and coordination of care – Beneficiaries would be encouraged to enroll in what the proposal calls an Integrated Care Organization. These ICOs would coordinate care between doctors, long term care providers, and unpaid care givers like loved ones to ensure that patients receive all the medical and support services they need.

One of the obvious challenges to adding long term care benefits to Medicare is the associated cost to an already strapped system. Aside from a relatively modest monthly premium and a moderate increase in the existing payroll tax that goes to fund Medicare, a significant portion of the cost would be covered by sliding scale co-insurance. The co-insurance would range from 5% for the lowest income beneficiaries to 50% for those with the highest incomes. This would be especially significant for middle income seniors who currently have too much in assets and income to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot comfortably afford the full cost of long term care.

While it may not be a perfect proposal, it does start a necessary conversation on the real struggles of many seniors to receive the long term supports they need to live their later years with comfort and dignity.

10 Words That Could Kill a Health Insurance Sale

June 28, 2016 - 3:24pm

Setting up a meeting with potential new clients can be a lot of work. Why ruin a potential sale by using easily avoidable words?

Here are ten words that can kill a sale and how to avoid them if possible.

Customer
Yes, the people you serve are considered customers, however the word ?customer? isn?t a very personable word. Using a word like ?client? instead of customer helps make a person feel more valued.

Commission
When you remind client?s you?re getting paid for helping them with their insurance needs they might suddenly feel like you?re looking out for your own interests instead of theirs. Even though you both know you?re more than likely getting something out of helping them, there?s really no reason to bring it up.

Buy/Purchase
It?s important your clients knows exactly how much they?re going to have to pay for their insurance. However, it?s also important not to sound too pushy. Sometimes the word ?buy? leads a client into feeling like they?re cornered or like they?re talking to a pushy used car salesman and not someone helping to plan their insurance needs. Using words like ?enroll? or ?invest? help create a friendlier environment.

Free
Calling an insurance plan ?Free? is just asking for an issue later on down the road. When there is a zero premium plan do not tell your clients that it is ?free.? Instead, call it exactly what it is: a zero premium plan.

Cheap
Whether or not something is ?cheap? is completely subjective. This is a word that could lead to hard feelings or could create an awkward environment. Instead, try using the phrase ?relatively inexpensive.?

Maybe/Possibly
Both of these words could make you look wishy-washy. The only way these words are ever acceptable is if they?re followed up with an action plan. EX: ?Possibly, but let me just call the company real quick so I can have a solid answer for you.? By adding the action sequence, you?re telling the client that you?re not sure but you?re willing to figure it out.

Honestly
?Honestly? completely backfires because it actually causes distrust. If you start a sentence with ?Honestly?? your client will subconsciously think you?re not being completely honest with them.

Satisfaction
This word is one of the most used words in sales, which is why it has come to have a negative effect in sales meetings. Just saying the word lowers the meeting in a way where it can sound like an infomercial.

Obviously
If the information you are providing your client is obvious, then they wouldn?t need you. To assume what you?re saying is already known could cause the client to feel like they are incompetent. Making your client feel incompetent could cause hard feelings, in turn making you lose the sale.

Best-Seller
Just because something is a best-seller, doesn?t mean it?s the product that?s best for your client. It?s easy for a client to feel like you?re not doing your due diligence in helping them and are just putting them in a box because it?s what other people choose. It?s better to make a client feel special than making them feel like they?re just one of many. Even if a product is a ?best-seller? it?s better not to mention it unless a client specifically wants what?s most popular.

Phrases and words like these can hinder your ability to reach clients. Subtle changes like these can help you improve your relationships, in turn helping you bring in more business.

How to Complete a Medicare Drug Review

June 17, 2016 - 11:12am

According to the Department of Health and Services around 73% of seniors take?prescription?drugs, which is why?prescription?drug coverage for those on Medicare is so important.

Here is a step by step guide on how to help your client find a?prescription?drug plan that suites them best, based on their?prescription?needs.

STEP 1: Go to www.Medicare.gov and click on “Find Health & Drug Plans.”

STEP 2: Put in your client’s zip code and click “Find Plans.”

STEP 3:?Enter your client’s information based on what fits their situation best. Click “Continue to Plan Results.”

STEP 4: Enter your client’s drug information. When you start typing in the name of the?prescription,?the name of the drug should auto-populate. It will then let you know if a generic option is available and allow you to choose that option if your client is interested. After that?it will ask the?prescribed?amount of pills per month, etc.

STEP 5: Once all of your client’s drug information is inputted, click “My Drug List is Complete.”

STEP 6: Next choose?which pharmacy your client would like to use. You can choose multiple options so that you can compare prices between pharmacy options. Then click “Continue to plan results.”

STEP 7: On this screen you can narrow down your search based on if they are looking for just a Prescription Drug Plan, or if they are looking for?Medicare?Health Plans with drug coverage. Once that is chosen click “Continue to Plan Results.”

STEP 8: This screen will show your client’s various plan results. From here you can compare plans based on costs, benefits, etc. Clicking on the plan name (such as the one circled in red below) will show you the plan details, which will give you a more?in depth?view of the plan, as well as the star rating.

STEP 9: This is an example of the plan detail page.

Remembering to review your clients medications annually will help make?sure that they get the coverage that makes the most sense for them.

The Impact of the Election Year on Medicare Marketing

June 7, 2016 - 2:18pm

The results of the upcoming Presidential election could bring about a host of changes, but even before that, the election year itself can mean new marketing challenges for agents during AEP. So what should you be prepared for?

Fear of changes – Because Medicare is a major campaign issue, seniors are likely to be more concerned about potential changes and less certain about their options for 2017. With the promise of a new administration reforming Medicare, clients may be worried about making a decision, only to have things change.

Congested advertising space – Remember that the election is smack in the middle of AEP! In the final lead up to the election, people will be inundated with campaign related direct mail pieces, television commercials, and print ads, making it harder for yours to be seen.

Limited advertising available – Due to the volume of political ads being scheduled in the lead up to the election, television networks will almost certainly run out of available advertising space, and print publications may as well. Both will likely charge a premium, particularly on the specific networks and publications that best reach seniors.

So, how do you combat this?

Be prepared to reassure clients – Clients may be more cautious with their choices or less sure about their options because of potential changes to the Medicare program. Have some talking points in mind to remind them that any changes as a result of a new Presidential administration will take time and they should make the best choice they can based on where things stand now.

Plan for advertising early – Get in touch with your contacts at television providers, newspapers, and direct mail houses earlier than you think is necessary to make sure you can get your advertising out when you need to. There’s likely to be longer turn around time in addition to less availability, so getting in early will be key.

Be as creative as possible – There will be so much advertising, it will be more important than ever to find ways to stand out from the crowd. People are going to have red, white, and blue postcards by the dozens in their mailboxes and wall to wall ads in their newspapers and magazines, so start thinking now about how to make yours stand out.

While planning marketing for AEP is always a significant undertaking, remember that this year will bring with it unique challenges. Plan ahead and save yourself some headaches!

What NOT to do When Working With Clients

June 3, 2016 - 4:31pm

There are tons of articles out there telling agents what they should remember to do while on a client visit? but what about what not to do?

Here are 4 tips on things to avoid when working with a client.

Treating Your Clients like a Sale and Not a Person
Sometimes when you get caught up in the moment you just want to ?close the deal? but when it comes to insurance that ?deal? is actually a person. Insurance directly affects the well being of a person so it?s always important to remember to go into a sales meeting with the best interests of the client in mind, not with whether or not you?re about to make more money. This thought process can actually help create more business through referrals, because if your client is happy, they?ll want people to know.

Showing up Without Being Prepared
When you schedule a meeting you?re not only carving out a chunk of your own time, but your client?s time as well. They also have places to be or people to see, so showing up unprepared could easily be the primer of what makes them unreceptive to what you have to say. Taking the time to ask a few questions and do a little research beforehand could be the thing that helps you seal the deal.

Leaving out Information or Options
One of the biggest reasons an agent can face an allegation is because they didn’t thoroughly cover the plan options with their client and later their client becomes confused. It?s important to give the information as plainly as possible and also to leave all of the necessary paper work so the client has the information at their fingertips. The client is relying on you to help them understand their policy so by leaving out pertinent information you could be jeopardizing your relationship with your client and also the client?s health in general.

Forgetting to Complete a Follow-up
You?ve met with your client, you’ve figured out their needs, you’ve written the policy and now you?re done, right? Not exactly. Following up to make sure your client?s policy was approved is an important final step to securing your sale and making sure your client is insured and happy. Don?t go through all of the work just to fall flat at the last step by forgetting to make sure there aren’t any loose ends that need attention.

 

No Need to Fear Secret Shoppers

May 31, 2016 - 2:37pm

Time and again we hear it from agents considering doing sales meetings or other community events — “But what if a secret shopper comes?” While the concern is completely understandable given the potential ramifications of a CMS complaint, it’s also probably based more in fear than in reality.

Secret shoppers don’t find anything wrong the vast majority of the time – In 2014, 85.5% of the events that were secret shopped by CMS were found to be totally compliant. 85.5%! Do you have faith that you’re better than the bottom 14.5% of agents out there? We bet you do. If more than 85% of events can be pulled off with no compliance issues, so can yours.

They really don’t try to trap you – Secret shoppers may ask you a lot of questions, and they may be specifically asking questions related to areas of concern for CMS, but they won’t go out of their way to ask you the most obscure question possible and trick you into giving the wrong answer. Answer questions compliantly and be honest if you’re not sure of something.

There are example checklists you can look at – Every CMS secret shopper fills out the same survey and is looking for the same things. While CMS doesn’t make the most current one available to the public, you can click here to look at a sample from a prior year. If you know what they’re looking for, you know what you have to do.

Most deficiencies found were for easily avoidable infractions – In 2014, CMS secret shoppers found 305 deficiencies at the events they surveyed. Sixty-nine were for failing to provide and go over star ratings, and 67 were for failing to make available required information like the Summary of Benefits or provider directory when providing an enrollment form. These are easily prevented by making sure you have the necessary materials and that you go over the information required.

If you take a little time and some care, you can put together an informative, compliant event to help grow your business, without fear of a secret shopper lurking around every corner.

Blurring The Line Between Health Systems and Insurance Carriers

May 25, 2016 - 3:43pm

As tensions mount over physician reimbursement rates and health systems and insurance carriers seek ways to improve performance to secure higher payments for themselves, more health systems are looking to the unique solution of becoming an insurance carrier in their own right. A number of large regional health systems like Sutter Health and Stanford Health Care have ventured into the individual health and Medicare Advantage markets, and others seem poised to follow suit. So why do health systems want to take on this challenge?

More control means higher star ratings – Star ratings issued by CMS have been an important measure of plan quality and performance for several years, and the expansion of the program to include hospitals and long term care facilities shows that the ratings are here to stay. Star ratings aren’t just a feather in the cap, they afford special privileges like the ability to accept new members outside of the normal enrollment periods and higher reimbursement rates. The success of Kaiser’s Senior Advantage products has proven that having control of the entire process – including providers, pharmacies, and hospitals – is one of the best ways to ensure the kind of efficiency and well-coordinated care that leads to five star ratings. Other large health systems that already have the provider and hospital infrastructure want to leverage their own networks to achieve similar results.

Patients want stable networks – One of the most frequent complaints from consumers is that their carrier’s network changes from year to year, and they have no choice but to change carriers to follow their doctor. Network stability is in fact a frequent topic in discussions of Medicare Advantage reform and regulation. Large health systems who already have affiliated doctors likely see lower turnover rates amongst their providers and can remove some of that stress for their patients, especially in the wake of high profile contract disputes like the protracted negotiations between Sutter Health and Blue Shield.

Patients have relationships with their doctors, not their insurance carrier – As long as claims get paid, very often clients simply want the plan that allows them to see the doctors they’re used to. The providers and health systems that patients use have often had years to build trust, while patients may only interact with their insurance carrier when there’s a problem with a claim being paid or with getting approval for care they need. Some established insurance carriers are beginning to do more client outreach in an effort to change this, but the advantage is still strongly on the side of the doctors and hospitals that people already know and trust.

Increased efficiency means better care and higher profits – The ability to streamline patient care, as well as billing and claims, gets patients the care they need faster and more easily. It can also save money by eliminating unnecessary or redundant procedures and cutting back on the number of steps and man hours it takes to file and process a claim.

While becoming a carrier as well as a health system is a daunting task, it’s a trend on the rise for the simple reason that, if done well, it can lead to better, more efficient care and higher profits.

4 Tips When Making the Switch to Work at Home

May 20, 2016 - 12:54pm

One of the perks of being an independent insurance agent is being able to make your own schedule and choosing whether or not you work from home. However, working at home comes with its own set of hurdles that you?ll need to overcome. Making sure you?re just as productive at home (or more productive) is important to keeping your business alive and thriving.

Keep a Routine
Just because you?re now working at home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still get up at a decent hour. ?The early bird gets the worm? is still something you should take into consideration, even when working from a home office. Getting up in the morning and going through a typical routine of showering, having breakfast and getting dressed in clothes outside of pajamas will help you get in the right frame of mind to work.

Have a Dedicated Work Space
Having a dedicated work space can significantly help you focus on business. Having this space will also help create a mental shift from home life to work life. Making sure your mind is on business is half the battle when working from home.

Have Business Hours
Creating a balance between home life and work life is an important thing to establish right from the start when your home becomes your office. With your office at home, it?s easy to work longer hours and think about work in the evenings when you could be spending time with family or friends. Having a set start time and end time will help you keep that balance. It will also help you focus on business instead of letting family obligations cloud your work time.

Don?t Wander Around
Keep out of the kitchen if it?s not time for lunch. Don?t sit in the living room watching TV when you become bored. Make sure people know even though you?re home, you?re not available during work hours. One of the perks of working at home is being in your own space and being comfortable, however allowing yourself to become too comfortable or distracted is going to lower your work production and create bad working habits.

Overall working out of your house could create a more positive quality of life for you, as long as you put in the effort to keep your business up, while also not letting it take over your home.

Medicare Advantage Keeps Growing

May 17, 2016 - 11:39am

Medicare Advantage plans saw continued growth over the past year, doing little to change the common notion that managed care will become ever more popular among Medicare beneficiaries. The total number of enrolled beneficiaries increased from 32% of 54 million eligibles this time last year to 33% of 55 million eligibles this year.

Almost all insurers saw growth:
– Total enrollment leader UHC saw a 10.5% increase
– Six of nine other companies with more than 250,000 members saw growth
– Cigna had the largest percentage increase at 13.6%
– Large insurers saw an overall average growth of 5.2%, while small insurers saw an average growth of 5.6%

While UHC and Humana continue to dominate with a combined market share of 38.5%, the fact that smaller insurers saw overall growth similar to the larger insurers is an indicator that the market is sustainable even outside the huge market share of the largest companies. Smaller, more regional carriers are surviving and even thriving.

Selling Medicare Advantage plans does mean extra work with certifications and abiding by CMS regulations, but the increasing market share makes it worth the time and effort. If you haven’t already, get a few MA carriers in your bag and be prepared to offer your clients what a growing number of them may want.

Keeping Your Client Information Secure

May 13, 2016 - 2:18pm

In 2015 there were multiple data hacks with big companies where client?s information was infiltrated, leaving clients vulnerable to fraud. Now, moving forward from these huge data breaches, many companies are cracking down on making sure client?s information is as secure as it can be, especially in the insurance field where client?s information is floating around on applications, ID cards, etc.

As an agent it is your responsibility to keep your client?s data as protected as possible. But what information needs to be protected and how far do you actually need to go to protect the info?

What information needs to be kept secure?

The first thing about making sure your client?s information is protected is knowing what information actually needs to be protected. The most basic and secure answer is that everything should be protected. It is your responsibility to protect any information a client gives you which includes their addresses, email addresses, social security or tax identification numbers, credit card or bank account info, and anything else that you collect that could be used against your client in a fraudulent manner.

This means applications, copies of clients ID cards, and other personal documents all need to be securely stored, whether in electronic format or hardcopy. Also, when disposing of old documents make sure they are disposed of properly such as with a paper shredder or similar method.

How do you keep clients information secure?

Keeping a clients information secure really depends on how you are using your client?s information. Is it a hard copy application or document or is it purely electronic?

  • Hard Copy: All applications and documents with client information should be kept in a locked area. This could be a room or something as simple as a filing cabinet with a lock. Applications and documents should not be left out in the open or stored in areas easily accessible by outside persons.
  • Electronic Storage: Documents with client?s information should be kept in limited access areas, even on computers. This means making sure a computer is password protected, and that firewalls and anti-virus software are in place, etc. Also, the computer or server where the client?s info is kept should not be something that is easily accessible by the public or even employees who have no reason to have access.
  • Electronic Communication: All electronic correspondence regarding your client should be done through a secured manner, such as a secured email system. You can find your own form of secure email by doing something as simple as googling ?secure email service? or talk with fellow agents or up line* to see what they?re using.

*Agent Pitstop offers a secure email service for our agents to correspond securely with us, free of charge. If agents would like full access where they are able to email anyone, it is $60 per year.

What can happen if you don?t keep your clients info secure?

If you are not currently doing everything you can to keep your client?s information secure, you are not only putting your clients at risk, but yourself as well. If you are found at fault for not securing your client?s information and it is stolen you could be at risk of not only losing your contracts with carriers but also your insurance license in general.

If you have any questions or concerns about securing your client?s information contact our compliance department at compliance@agentpitstop.com.

Changes Coming to Medicare Supplements

May 6, 2016 - 9:20am

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has released their proposed breakdown of Medicare Supplement plans to take effect in 2020, to comply with new regulations on first dollar coverage passed by congress last year. H.R. 2 eliminates first dollar coverage (discussed further below) as part of Medicare Supplement plans beginning in 2020, along with changing the reimbursement rates for Medicare providers.

What is first dollar coverage?

Simply put, first dollar coverage is coverage without any deductibles or coinsurance. The coverage is considered “first dollar” because from the first dollar spent, the coverage pays its share. Medicare Supplement Plan F is an example of first dollar coverage, because the plan pays the Part A and Part B deductibles.

How does this change Medicare Supplement plans?

Starting in 2020, plans C and F will only be available to existing Medicare beneficiaries. New Medicare beneficiaries will have their choice of the remaining plans, with Plan G offering the richest benefits. NAIC has also proposed the introduction of a high deductible Plan G to take the place of high deductible Plan F.

Why are they making this change?

Many believe that first dollar coverage encourages overuse of services, because beneficiaries have no financial incentive to limit their care to only what’s truly necessary. By passing along a share of cost even to those people who have Medicare Supplement plans, the hope is to lessen the strain on the Medicare program.

While the new plans won’t take effect for several years, this is sure to significantly change the Medicare Supplement landscape for agents and beneficiaries alike.

Communicating with Seniors

April 29, 2016 - 9:51am

As an agent you spend most of your working hours trying to make connections to gain more business. But what happens when you make these connections? How do you connect with clients in the senior market to build the trust needed for them to allow you to handle their health care needs?

Here are a few tips to help build lasting relationships with your clients.

Speak Clearly and Articulate Your Words ? Something as simple as speaking clearly and articulating your words can go a long way. It?s also important to watch your volume. You want to be audible so they can understand you, but you don?t want to be shouting, which could be misconstrued as aggression, when a casual speaking voice would suffice.

Listen and Remember ? People enjoy talking, especially about things they?re excited about like family achievements, upcoming events, or stories from their past they think you?ll enjoy. Learning how to be a good listener is simple but can go a long way to build trust. Especially if you retain some of the details you?ve learned about your client and are able to bring it up again the next time you see them. Asking things like ?How was your 50th wedding anniversary celebration,? can go a long way to keep you in good standing with your client.

Repeat but Don?t Talk Down ? As an agent it?s one of your main duties to make sure your client understands what they are signing up for when it comes to their health plan. Making sure they understand might result in you needing to repeat yourself a time or two. This doesn?t mean you should talk down to your client though or that you need to ?dumb things down.? It just means you might have to go over the highlights more than once.

Ask, Don?t Assume ? Showing your clients you care about what?s going to work best for them can build a solid foundation for trust. Part of this is asking them to describe what their needs are in their own words. Don?t just assume you know what product would suite them best without having a conversation and getting their input.

Be Patient ? When speaking to a senior client, don?t rush them or talk over them. This really ties into the points above about listening and not assuming. Sometimes it takes a moment for a person to collect their thoughts so they can properly articulate what is needed to be said. Patience goes a long way in building trust.

Overall the important thing to remember is that the client matters most. If you?re treating the client with respect, listening to their needs and trying to communicate effectively, you?re doing your job right.

What to Know About the Knox-Keene Act

April 26, 2016 - 12:08pm

For agents in California, the Knox-Keene Act can be a magic bullet in some tricky situations where a client needs to change to a Medicare Supplement but couldn’t pass underwriting. So how does it work?

The Knox-Keene Act provides guaranteed issue rights to existing Medicare Advantage plan members if the plan does any of the following:

1) increases premium by 15% or more
2) reduces benefits
3) increases physician, hospital, or drug copayments by 15% or more
4) discontinues its relationship with a provider who is currently furnishing services to an individual

Of course there are some restrictions to be aware of.

GI rights apply to the same carrier’s Medicare Supplement plans first. If the company that offers the Medicare Advantage plan the client is coming off of also offers Medicare Supplement plans, the GI rights only apply to that carrier. If that carrier doesn’t offer Medicare Supplement plans but an affiliated company like a parent or a subsidiary does, then the GI rights only apply to the parent or subsidiary. If none of those companies offer Medicare Supplement plans, then the GI rights extend to any issuer.

Except in the case of a provider leaving a plan’s network, enrollments using these GI rights must happen during AEP. This isn’t especially restrictive, because the other changes would only be happening effective January 1 and any plan changes would be happening during AEP anyway, but it does mean you can’t just wait and disenroll during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period in January and February and set up the Medicare Supplement then.

Remember you’ll likely need to submit your client’s Annual Notice of Change or a notice from the plan or their doctor about a network change along with the Medicare Supplement application. It’s a little bit of work to potentially make a client very happy!

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