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  • Communicating with Seniors

    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

    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!

  • The Importance of being a Self-Reliant Agent

    Being a health insurance agent is hard work and can be very time intensive, especially during open enrollment. Although the staff at Agent Pitstop is here to help where we can, it’s also important to look at what you know and evaluate if you could be a self-reliant agent if the circumstance were to arise.Knowing how to be more independent could be the difference between making a sale and completely dropping the ball.

    But what does it mean to be self-reliant?

    It’s really all about knowing your industry and what you need to do in order to help your client’s to the best of your ability. Here are some tips for learning to be self-reliant.

    Know How to Market Yourself – Whether through leads or by becoming more involved in your community to help generate referrals, you need to be marketing yourself to make money. Marketing is absolutely key in growing your business and the only way marketing happens is through spending your time, money or both to make sure clients are coming your way. Being proactive with implementing a marketing plan is one of the most important steps you can take towards being a self-reliant agent.

    Popular methods of marketing include buying leads, generic print advertisements, direct mail business reply cards or holding meetings.

    Know Your Product & Where it Comes From – Know the plans in your area and the benefits of the various plans. If you aren’t confident in your product knowledge, there are trainings you can seek out through company offered trainings or from your up line.

    Self-reliant agents also know who to contact to order supplies and they have them on hand before needing them. If you don’t know how to order something, calling a company’s broker support line or your up line is usually the best bet when looking for a way to get supplies. If broker support can’t help you, they’ll at least know where to direct you.

    Just keep in mind the company wants you to have product on hand so that you’re able to write business if the opportunity arises so don’t feel shy about reaching out to request what you need.

    Know What a Clean App Looks Like and Know How to Submit it – Submitting a clean app and knowing how to write the app, as well as knowing who to send the app too once it’s complete, is important. You can know your product information inside and out but unless you know how to properly complete the enrollment process, your knowledge doesn’t help you or your client.

    Submitting a clean app can save hours of headache and upset.

    Know How to Follow Up and Resolve Issues – Making sure you are up-to-date with your applications is key to being a self-reliant agent. The first step is making sure your application has been submitted correctly. After a few days you need to follow up on the application and make sure your client was successfully enrolled. If there are any issues with the application you need to act quickly to take care of these issues. Don’t sit on something that could be taken care of easily because it could result in the application being terminated.

    Track Your Commissions and Know How to Problem Solve – A self-reliant agent has a method in place to help track their commissions. They know what they’re supposed to be getting and when they’re supposed to be getting it. This way, if something isn’t paid out, the issue can be caught sooner rather than later.

    This is something where you’ll have to find the best method that works for you, however if you’re an agent with Agent Pitstop then you’ll be able to track most of your commissions using your agentpitstop.com account.

    **If you’re an agent with Agent Pitstop and have a commissions discrepancy, please fill out a commissions discrepancy form and forward the form to commissions@agentpitstop.com via secure email.

    Download the discrepancy form by clicking here.

    Know Your Tools and Use Them Frequently – Many companies offer a broker portal or resource site of some sort. Here at Van Berg & Associates we offer AgentPitstop.com to track application submissions, contracting, and commissions. These tools, when utilized, help you keep on top of everything else listed above. If you’re not utilizing tools such as broker portals and resource sites like agentpitstop.com than you’re making your job harder than it needs to be.

  • Can We Really Escape Aging?

    The only things certain in life are death and taxes, right? Maybe not the first one, according to some researchers. But how could this be possible?

    Preventing the degeneration that comes with age – For years the focus of research around increasing lifespans, and eventually avoiding death altogether, has been on preventing the degenerative effects of aging. As we get older, our bodies naturally become damaged and this is what leads to the negative effects of aging that present themselves in illness and eventual death. If we could prevent that cumulative damage, then longer lifespans would be possible, eventually even resulting in cheating death entirely. So far, unfortunately, this has shown only limited success.

    Repairing the degeneration that comes with age – Unlike trying to prevent what may be simply the inevitable result of aging, some researchers believe the key is to repair the damage. Cambridge gerentologist Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Research Foundation, believes that the chances that the first person to escape the negative health effects of aging has already been born are “probably about 80 percent.” How would this be possible? De Grey and his colleagues believe they have found gene therapy treatments which could take, for example, “people aged 60, and rejuvenate them thoroughly enough so they won’t be biologically 60 again until they are chronologically 90.” Meanwhile, the technology would have had thirty years to advance even further, allowing even more advanced techniques to repair the damage when the time came.

    Digital consciousness – You could argue whether or not it counts as living, but technology may be advancing to the point that someday someone’s consciousness could be uploaded to a computer prior to their physical death, allowing them to mentally live on. According to Stephen Hawking, “the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer, so it’s theoretically possible to copy the brain onto a computer and so provide a form of life after death.” This technology is further off than other options for extended longevity, but may prove the ultimate way to cheat death.

    As technology, both medical and otherwise, advances further, we may soon be approaching a time when the perils of old age are a thing of the past.

  • How Agent Pitstop Can Help You and Your Business

    Knowing our agents are busy meeting with clients and running their business, we at Van Berg & Associates strive to help out where we can and make our agents lives as easy as possible.  As a Van Berg agent, using your password protected Agent Pitstop account can be a wonderful resource in helping to manage your applications, review client information, and track commissions. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible regarding your book of business and commissions. Therefore, we try and provide everything you need in one secure place.

    Here are just some of the tabs you’ll find under your personal Agent Pitstop account:

    Clients: Easily access your client information including address, phone number and even the policy ID for the client’s plan.

    Commissions Statements: Commissions statements are uploaded under this section whenever a commission is paid out. The statement shows where your money is coming from, helping you track your commissions.

    To access more tabs, hover over the “Account” tab.

    Invoices: This tab allows you to see any outstanding balances you might have for things such as leads, advertising, marketing, charge backs, etc. Clicking on the title of the invoice will bring up more information about the charge.

    Recent Submissions:  This feature helps you to keep up to date with a client’s application. Once the application is submitted and entered into the system, it will show on your Agent Pitstop account. From there you can track application status and also view your client’s policy ID.

    My Contracts: This section allows agents to see which companies they are currently contracted with through Van Berg & Associates, as well as companies they have been termed or cancelled from. This is also where you can find your writing ID for the companies you’re contracted with.

    Checking Agent Pitstop frequently and utilizing these tools is an easy way to help manage your clients, check application status and keep on top of your commissions.

    Don’t have an Agent Pitstop account yet? Call us today at 877-776-8919 and we’ll help get you set up.

  • Quick tips for Submitting a Clean app and Avoiding Kickbacks

    Applications being rejected or kicked back can be frustrating and time consuming. You are not only setting aside time to figure out what plan works best for the client but to also meet with them and help fill out the application as needed. Don’t let your time or your client’s time be wasted because of little mistakes that could have been prevented by taking an extra minute to check over your work.

    Be Thorough – One of the biggest hold ups with processing can be that you’re missing the most basic information on an app. As an agent you are responsible for obtaining information such as a client’s name, phone number, address and Medicare ID and these are very important bits of info. However when you get into the groove of writing apps, especially in group settings or during the annual election period where the process comes at a faster pace, you may move right past a question without answering it. Always scrub your own app before submitting to check for these easy to fill questions.

    Make sure the plan selected actually works for your client – Sometimes a simple mistake of choosing the wrong plan can create a kickback. For instance Blue Shield of California only partially covers Contra Costa County and Care1st has a partial county in Alameda County. Knowing a plans coverage area and double checking zip codes is key to making sure you’re selecting the right plan for your client in situations such as those

    Other possible snags to watch out for are making sure you’ve selected the correct special election period (SEP), whether or not your client is dual eligible, or choosing a plan that helps with a specific health issue such as diabetes or a heart condition.

    Provide the Right Paper Work – At various times extra paper work is needed along with the client’s application. Think ahead and predict what documentation could be needed. For instance, in California, Medicare supplements being written on the birthday rule almost always require proof of prior plan. Having a copy of the client’s previous policy ID card and submitting it with the application could save you time from needing to do so later, while the application sits on hold. When writing an application that has an SEP it’s also very important to include the correct information on why it’s an SEP. If the client has recently moved to a new zip code or state where their plan no longer exists then include a letter from their policy’s provider showing they have moved out of the network.

    Paper work showing Power of Attorney (POA) is particularly important to point out because many agents often forget about including documentation for POA since it doesn’t frequently come up. Although there are a few companies that don’t require documentation, the majority of companies do, which is why it’s a good policy just to always include POA documentation.

    Don’t Dawdle with Corrections – If you do have an issue with an application (like you wrote down the Medicare ID incorrectly or have missing paper work, etc.) make sure to get it to the company ASAP. Providers offer a time frame to get corrections in before they reject applications. Once you miss a deadline it is rare that the company will open that application back up again. This leaves you either having to write an entirely new app if the election period is still open or, worst case scenario, it can leave your client without coverage.