Going on Medicare for the first time one of the most important things you can do is find the right insurance agent to help you with your needs.
When picking a Medicare agent make sure they know your local market. They should be an educator and present to you all the options that are available in your area. Stay away from pushy people who only recommend only one product or plan. The agent you pick needs to be licensed with the department of insurance in your state.
When it comes to your health insurance, we know how crucial it is to get the best possible coverage at the best possible price.
Because of this, it is vitally important to work with an agent who is looking out for your best interests, and not the best interests of themselves or an insurance company.
Today we will talk about what you should look for in an agent when you are shopping for coverage to purchase in addition to Medicare.
Keep reading to learn more.
Is the Agent Licensed?
Your agent must have a license to sell insurance in the state in which you reside.
It is OK if your agent does not live in your state. Many agents are licensed to sell insurance in their resident state and many other non-resident states.
An agent should be more than happy to send you a copy of their license. It will include their license number and other important information.
You can search for agents on the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) website using their unique National Producer Number. Most agents will give you their NPN if you ask for it.
The National Insurance Producer Registry maintains important information about agents, the states they are licensed to do business in, and the types of insurance they are licensed to sell.
If there were any adverse information to report about an agent, you would be able to see this on the National Insurance Producer Registry.
Is the Agent Independent?
Make sure you are working with an independent agent.
An independent agent works with many reputable insurance companies and does not represent just one.
If an agent represents only one company, he or she is looking out for only that company’s best interests, and not yours.
An agent needs to be able to broker several different companies.
This separates agents who are pushy from those who are advisors and experts in their field.
Brokers typically know more about the market, rate increases, and have the best rates.
Let’s look at an example:
Iris has a Medicare supplement Plan G with Company XYZ.
Her agent calls her to tell her there is a Plan G available with Company ABC. It would save her $30 per month.
The agent represents both of these companies and is looking to help Iris save money – not keep her on an expensive plan just because he represents only the company that offers it.
Iris’ agent helps her apply for Plan G with Company ABC. They answer a few simple health questions and apply to a company the agent knows will get her covered.
Because Iris’ agent is independent, he reaches out to her every year to let her know if there are any money-saving options for her with good, reputable companies.
If she had worked with an agent who was not independent or had gone through an insurance company directly, she would have no one looking out for her like this year after year.
Is the Agent Asking You Questions?
You probably have lots of questions to ask a potential agent, but a good agent should be asking you some important questions too.
A good agent should ask you about your health and how often you do or do not utilize certain medical services.
A simple needs analysis will help your agent better understand your situation.
No plan is one size fits all – some offer more coverage than others and are better suited for individuals who are likely to use their insurance more frequently.
A good agent will also ask you if you are married, in a domestic partnership, or if you have any household members.
Many companies offer household discounts, and your agent should be trying to save you as much money as possible.
A good agent should also be listening to your budgetary concerns and not trying to push you into a too expensive plan or a plan that will be in the long run.
Let’s look at an example:
Henrietta and her husband, James, are retiring soon and are comparing Medicare supplement plans.
Their independent agent asks her about her and James’ health.
Henrietta tells the agent that she is very healthy. James has had some health issues and goes to doctors and specialists pretty often.
Henrietta is surprised when the agent recommends she gets supplement Plan N and James gets Plan G.
Plan N has a doctor’s office visit copay but lower monthly premiums. Henrietta hardly goes to the doctor, so it’s a good fit for her.
Plan G has no doctor’s office visit copays and slightly higher monthly premiums. Because James goes to the doctor so often, it is the best option for him.
Henrietta is also delighted when the agent tells her that because she and James will be getting their plans from the same company, they will get to take advantage of a household discount even though they are purchasing different letter plans.
If you want to know the differences between Plan G and N, read this article here.
What Does the Internet Have to Say?
Your agent should be more than happy to direct you to their website or their agency’s website.
Agencies like American Insurance Benefits and Medicare Gurus specialize in helping Medicare Beneficiaries navigate their options. If you visit those agencies’ websites, notice how polished they are and provide a lot of good content.
The website should have background information about the agent, how long they have been helping people with their insurance needs, and maybe even include a nice picture.
The website might also have helpful information like videos or articles.
Medicare can be very confusing, so having a site with valuable resources that help you navigate Medicare and not just a site pushing an insurance product is priceless.
Look For Reviews
Reviews are a great way to find out about the agent you are working with. They are honest assessments of the agent and the service the agent provides. The reviews are based on the real-life experiences of other people who have worked with that agent.
The agent or agency might have reviews directly on their website.
Google, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau are other places you might find reviews about an agent or agency.
Getting Ahold of Your Agent
Your agent should not be difficult to get on the phone.
Unfortunately, we talk to many people who say they have not heard from their agent or gotten a return phone call since being sold an insurance policy.
Your agent should be willing to provide you with their direct number and not just an extension. After all, he or she has your direct number!
They should be available to help you and answer any questions you might have long after he or she has sold you an insurance policy.
We all get busy, but your agent should most definitely return your call within a reasonable amount of time.
Your agent should check in with you from time to time. This includes reaching out annually to review your plan options. There might be savings available to you!
The Agent’s Demeanor
Make sure they are friendly, helpful, and informative, answering any questions or addressing any concerns you might have.
The agent should not be pushing you into making any snap decisions. It is OK if you want to take some time to decide between plans or do your research on different insurance companies you might be considering.
Not all plans are a perfect fit for every person. An agent should not be pushing only one plan with only one company.
There are differences in plans regarding price and coverage. There are also differences in the reputability and stability of certain insurance companies.
You may also want to be wary of an agent who is pushing only Medicare Advantage plans. There is a great deal of incentive from Medicare and insurance companies for an agent to put you in an Advantage plan, as opposed to a Medicare supplement. Make sure to look at plans that best fit your needs.
We know that choosing a plan and an insurance company is an important decision that impacts your healthcare and your budget.
It is crucial for you to work with an agent looking out for your best interests and not the best interests of themselves or an insurance company.
You will want to be sure that the agent:
- Licensed to do business and to do so in your state of residence
- Independent, representing many insurance companies and not just one
- Asks you questions through a simple needs analysis
- Has an online presence
- Has positive reviews from their other clients
- Is easy to get a hold of
- Is helpful, informative, and doesn’t push you into deciding on a plan until you feel comfortable doing so
If you have any questions, use the search tool at the top of this page or on the home page.
Or, if you would like further detail on any of the topics we discussed, please fill out a contact form and submit your question.
If you prefer to speak by phone, call us at 888-209-5049.