As a Medicare Supplement agent myself, I understand the stigma attached to insurance agents. Fortunately, I do not fit the stereotypical, smooth-talking, car salesman prototype, but I know many agents who do. Since Open Enrollment is almost over, and many people are deciding to switch from Medicare Advantage to Medicare Supplement, I thought I might add my two-cents regarding choosing the perfect agent, just in case any consumers are interested in what distinguishes the good from the bad, and the bad from the ugly.
One thing that divides the multitudes is who they work for and how they get their leads. Although cold calling became illegal, many Medicare Supplement agents still find people not located on the “Do Not Call” lists, and spend their days pestering these unknowingly vulnerable consumers. If an agent calls you, and you have no idea where they got your number, HANG UP. This agent is in direct violation of a federal law, and there is no knowing what else this bottom feeder might be up to.
Independent agents, meaning agents who do not work for anyone, aside from being contracted with carriers, are usually the culprits behind cold-calling. However, this does not mean there aren’t reliable independent agents out there, in fact, I am one of them! Surprisingly, independent agents can be some of the best in the business, as long as they do not resort to cold calling or pestering. Why? Well, firstly, most agents work at big call centers or for the carriers themselves. If you work with a major call center (20+ agents), you are just one client out of thousands. As for agents who work for only one carrier, they are unable to give you more than one quote, and everyone knows shopping around is a tenant of Consumerism 101. Never speak to an agent that only works for one carrier, because I can guarantee that you are hearing a biased sale’s pitch– something every consumer, in every market should be weary of. Independent agents have neither of these problems. They are usually contracted with several competitive carriers for their area, and maintain a manageable client base– making them one of the best ways to get the most competitive price on a Medicare Supplement policy. Disclaimer: There are some smaller call centers that refrain from growing too large, and these are good places to shop around, as well. In general, stay clear from anyone who is not helping you shop, i.e. someone who does not understand that you want to hear about more than just one option available.
Agents who only offer one plan type, specifically Plan F cannot be trusted. “But I thought Plan F was the best plan out there?!” And you’re correct, in terms of coverage, Plan F is the most comprehensive. However, in terms of commission profits, Plan F is the most lucrative plan an agent can sell. If you are speaking with an agent who doesn’t want to discuss any other plans with you, I can guarantee that this agent is most likely 1. very inexperienced or 2. very greedy, and no one likes a greedy insurance agent. For example, I can save someone about $30-$50/month by purchasing a Plan G instead of Plan F, the difference? Plan G does not cover the Medicare Part B deductible of $147. You do the math. Some agents would rather make a bigger commission than do what’s right for the consumer.
Customer service is something that many insurance agents don’t understand. When a Medicare enrollee calls to discuss benefits, but then also has other questions or concerns, some agents will do the bare minimum for that consumer. A good agent will take the time to explain something to you, as well as making sure you fully understand every part of the plan’s benefits, the application process, payment, and so forth. A good agent will also keep you as their client, checking in every so often to make sure you are still happy with your policy.
The last quality I will discuss is humility, along with competency– two of the most important assets an agent can possess. There is not a single Medicare Supplement agent that knows everything about Medicare, the carriers, health conditions, etc. There are always questions. That’s why it’s good to have an agent who will tell you “Let me make sure this is accurate,” or will admit “I don’t know.” I rather have an agent ask the right person than attempt to be the smartest cookie in the agent jar.
Sometimes it is easy to go with the first agent who calls, but next time utilize the power of the consumer when shopping for a Medicare Supplement policy; I promise, you won’t regret the decision to be picky.