• 2018 Medicare Part A and B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

    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

    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

    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!

    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 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?

    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.

    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

  • 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.”

    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” 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.

    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.

    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.

    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 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.”


    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.