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  • Do you have a client on an AARP Medicare Supplement?

    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

    Let's Talk Money

    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

    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

    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?

    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

    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

    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 1

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

    Step 2

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

    Step 3

    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 4

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

    Step 5

    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.”

    Drug_Step7

    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 7

    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 8

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

    Step 9

    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

    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

    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

    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.