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  • Long Term Care Basics You Should Know

    As you likely know from your work in the senior market, longer lifespans mean more and more people will need long term care. But what is it, and how can you prepare and educate your clients to pay for it?

    What is LTC?
    Long term care is the help you need when you are no longer able to complete the Activities of Daily Living on your own. These include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring from bed to chair, and continence. Generally, if you cannot complete two or more of these without help, you are considered to need long term care. Long term care can be nursing home care, home health care, hospice care, and even home maker services to help you cook and clean.

    What is LTCI?
    Long term care insurance is insurance designed to pay some or all of the costs of long term care. Some policies will reimburse you for covered expenses up to a daily limit, and some policies will pay you a cash amount per day that you’re certified as needing care. You can also pay for long term care through additional benefits added on to whole life policies, or through hybrid products.

    Why have it?
    Skilled nursing facility care can cost close to $100k a year and home health care can cost close to $50k a year, and the cost is rising. Imagine if your clients suddenly had to pay that kind of cost out-of-pocket. Would many of them be able to, or would they be forced to sell off their assets in the hopes of Medi-Cal covering the necessary care?

    Who needs it?
    In short, everyone! Two out of three people will need long term care services at some point in their life, and one in three will need nursing home care. Even just a year or two of that kind of care can ruin a family’s finances. Because premiums are generally based on the age at time of issue, presenting long term care insurance to even your younger clients makes sense, as buying younger can save significant money in premiums over the life of the policy.

    We all hope that we’ll live independent, carefree lives to the end, but the reality is that most of us will need some kind of long term care in our later years. Be prepared to present the options to your clients and help them protect themselves and their families.

  • Managing Your Reputation With a Few Simple Tricks

    More and more, a client’s first impression of you may be provided by the internet. With seemingly whatever information someone could want just a few keywords away, people increasingly look to online searches as their first source of guidance, including when choosing an agent.

    So how can you make sure that potential clients find the best, most up to date information about you and your business?

    vb googleMake sure information online is accurate – Look up your name or your business name using a popular search engine like Google or Bing and make sure that things like the phone number, address, and office hours that it pulls up are accurate. If not, submit a correction to the search engine or update your website to reflect the current information. You’ll want to perform the same search with other major sites where people may search for you, like Facebook and Yelp.

    Claim your business’ pages – Many different websites may have pages already set up for your business, including Google Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Most give you the option to claim the pages as the owner so that you can add or correct information, so take advantage of this whenever possible.

    Set up a Google alert – Google alerts allow you to have any news items that include selected keywords emailed to you automatically, and are one of the fastest ways to find anything mentioning you and your business online. Whether positive testimonials or more critical reviews, mentions of charity work or event sponsorships, or business profiles, this information can provide valuable feedback and may be useful on your own social media profiles. You can set up Google alerts at google.com/alerts.

    Search review sites – Seeing results on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List will clue you in to potential issues you can resolve or things that you do well. Every client’s issue may not be fixable, and you may not be able to recreate the most positive client experience for everyone, but these reviews can show you if there are any trends. What do people like? What do they not like? Find the commonalities and work to leverage the good and resolve the bad.

    Search on social media – Tools like TweetDeck and Hoot Suite allow you to save searches to be constantly updated if someone mentions you or your business. However, avoid the temptation to use any kind of automated response to anyone mentioning you or your business. It borders on spam.

    Be respectful if you reply to comments – Comments made on people’s personal social media accounts that come up in searches should only be responded to if there is a very specific issue to be resolved. Otherwise read what’s been said and take it as coaching for the future. Responding to every negative comment can make you seem thin skinned, and it can feel invasive to clients to get a response from a business or professional contact on a personal post.

    A few searches on a regular basis and a few tools can make you more aware of what clients are thinking and can help you take control of what prospects may have as their first impression.

  • Be Better Prepared for Client Meetings and Get More Sales

    Most agents would agree that getting the appointment is the hardest part of making a sale, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to improve the likelihood of getting business out of every client meeting.

    Talk to clients in advance so they can have their information ready – You can’t always assume that a client is going to have all the necessary information immediately at hand. By talking to them in advance about what you’ll need to know, you give them a chance to track down necessary papers or make phone calls to get everything prepared. Items to remind clients of in advance include Medicare ID and Part A and B effective dates, names and contact info of their doctors, existing policy info including premium draft date, disenrollment or cancellation letters, and proof of prior coverage.

    Do some fact finding to narrow down the options you’ll present – Especially in areas with a large number of Medicare Advantage plans available or clients looking for a Guaranteed Issue Medicare Supplement, it’s overwhelming to a client to present them every option. Talk to the client briefly about what their priorities are and who their doctors are to find out whether there are plans that stand out as particularly good or bad fits. There’s no need to present a plan that doesn’t include benefits that a client is especially concerned with or that their doctor doesn’t accept.

    Be compliant – There’s no need to risk getting a sales allegation because of easily avoidable mistakes. Make sure that you have a scope of appointment filled out and signed as far in advance as possible. CMS requests 48 hours but doesn’t specifically require it in cases where it’s not possible. Also make sure that you have all the required materials to leave with clients including full enrollment kits, provider directories, the Choosing a Medigap Policy booklet, and anything else required by specific carriers or individual states.

    Know what basics you’ll need to cover, and in how much depth – Different clients will need different amounts of explanation about the basics of Medicare and how the plans they’re considering work. Are they totally new to Medicare? Are they just looking to change between like plan types? Are they switching between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans? Each scenario means a different amount of background information that the client will require.

    Doing a bit of extra work preparing to meet with clients will not only help you get the sale, it will make you look more professional and give your clients a better experience, bringing you more referrals and better persistency.

  • Why Do Clients Want a Brand Name?

    Often agents can be frustrated by a client’s insistence on going with a particular brand name carrier, despite price and benefits that suggest they should go with a different company. So what is it that makes clients willing to spend more money for a brand name?

    They think higher cost is worth lower risk – Clients can perceive the more familiar company as being a lower risk than another, lesser known company. Higher cost is a tradeoff that they’re willing to make, because health care isn’t the type of thing on which most people want to take a risk.

    They think higher price means it’s better – It’s not uncommon for clients to expect that the higher priced product with the company name they know is somehow better. As an agent you know this may or may not be true, but clients are generally looking at their insurance purchase the same way they would any other purchase. The more expensive brand name is likely better than the less expensive generic version. Remind them that it’s more like generic prescriptions, where they’re essentially the same thing at a much lower cost than brand name.

    So how do you combat this?

    Show clients the CMS materials – By showing clients the “Medicare and You” or “Choosing a Medigap Plan” booklets, you can help them see that plans are regulated and that they’re protected by the federal government. For Medicare Supplement clients, show them the chart in the “Choosing a Medigap Plan” booklet that shows the different plan benefits and the part where it says that all letter plans are standardized and provide the same benefits.

    Show them ratings and explain company track records – Star ratings and financial ratings for insurance companies can go a long way to soothe a nervous client who is reluctant to choose a plan that would be a better fit because of company brand recognition. If you can show a client that both plans they’re considering are four star plans, or that both companies have an A rating, it can help them see past their bias towards a familiar company.

    Give them what they want – Ultimately, if a client is set on a particular “brand name,” give them what they want. Explain the benefits and the downsides and let them make the choice, even if it isn’t the one you would make. They’re the ones who have to be comfortable with the coverage provided and the cost.

    As is usually true, your job is simply to educate your clients and let them make the choice with which they’re comfortable.

  • Relationship Economics: The More You Give, The More You Get

    It’s common knowledge that you have to invest in your business to make it successful, but it’s important to remember that the same holds true of relationships. Are you investing enough time in developing relationships with clients and people in your community to grow your business? Here are a few tips to remember.

    The more you invest, the more you’ll get out of your relationships with clients and referral sources – This seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget. The more you invest in terms of time, energy, and really listening to people, the more you’ll get out of the relationship, both personally and professionally. Clients and community members are more likely to refer someone to you if they feel a genuine connection and trust between you.

    Spend your time wisely – Investing your time doesn’t mean having to spend hours and hours of your day working for little to no pay, and it also doesn’t mean continually throwing energy into relationships that aren’t flourishing. Your relationships with your clients should be number one, and then focus on whichever community groups or other sources of referrals and exposure are most worth your time. Once you’ve decided where to focus, dedicate yourself to making the most of that relationship.

    Know when to throw in the towel – You only have so many hours in the day and so much energy, so it’s important to know when to accept that a particular partnership is no longer serving you well. For example, if a medical group is expecting hours of time donated on your behalf to help their patients, but you’re only getting a small handful of clients out of it, it may be time to explain that while you’re happy to help, it’s difficult for you to justify the time given the business you’re getting in return. Better to be honest and upfront about it than to be frustrated because you’re no longer invested in the project.

    Understand that it’s a long term strategy – Remember that payoff for time spent now may not come until the end of the year, especially in the Medicare Advantage business where you may spend eight to nine months a year building a list of leads to working during AEP. If you spend extra time with a client now to make sure he or she is totally satisfied and pleased with their experience working with you, they may refer their friends to you in the fall. If you work with community groups or senior centers to do informational meetings, you may not get anything other than a stack of lead cards right now. It’s important to remember in both of these situations that those connections are valuable and can turn into business down the line.

    Especially during lock-in, don’t be afraid to spend the extra time nurturing relationships with your clients and in your community to help build your book of business now and in the future.