What can be more confusing to a senior client than making decisions around Medicare? Yet, even before they turn 65, seniors are bombarded with Medicare reading matter and information that is not only unhelpful, but also extremely overwhelming. How many seniors can possibly navigate their way through a government-issued handbook, multiple websites, and toll-free assistance from different organizations and companies?

 

That's why our role as informed professionals is so vital in assisting seniors through this process. Otherwise, they may not make a timely decision and risk losing the opportunity to buy Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage plans without underwriting. In addition, as you start building a relationship with seniors through your expertise in Medicare coverage, you will be able to meet a myriad of protection and financial needs of concern to seniors.

 

In my branch, we've implemented a "Turning 65" marketing program to ensure that we meet the needs of seniors in our local community and help educate them along the way. About three to six months prior to a senior's 65th birthday, we send a communication that offers our Guide to Medicare and reminds seniors that critical resolutions need to be made before they turn 65. Through a follow-up phone call to respondents, we seek to introduce the representative, our branch and our experience to the prospective client with the goal of setting up a face-to-face meeting.

 

 

Promise not to sell

As you can imagine, the call is the most difficult part of the program because people are so wary and worried about being sold something. During this phone call, we agreement not to sell them anything at our introductory appointment. We position ourselves as a resource to explain Medicare to them and review their options without pressure to buy. 

Just as important, we remind them that the open enrollment period of Medicare Supplement plans lasts for six months and begins on the first day of the month in which a prospect turns 65 and is enrolled in Medicare Part B. It's key for seniors to understand that during this enrollment period, insurance companies may not refuse the sale of any Medicare Enhancement plan offered, delay coverage start or charge more for coverage due to health problems. Also, if the client is outside the open enrollment period, they will be subject to underwriting that may impact their coverage costs and choices.

When clients say they don't want an appointment but do want our guide book, we send it off to them with a cover letter about our insurance organization and its access to a variety of best-in-class products. We are not owned by a specific insurance company, and that is a key differentiator for us as we stress our independence and objectivity.

 

We also make follow-up phone calls offering to review the guide with them. Again, we stress that it's a service we offer to help them make an important decision during this short enrollment period. We offer to review any other materials or information they have collected to help educate them on their options. And, we don't give up after the first follow-up call. One experienced agent in my office, Danny Gutierrez, touches base with potential prospects seven to 10 times or until the person starts to understand that he is consistent and willing to put the time into staying in touch. This commitment often results in the face-to-face appointment.

 

Conduct a full fact-finder

 

 

 

Once the first appointment has been made, we take about an hour to do a complete fact-finder on the senior. We want to know how much they truly understand about Medicare as well as the kind of health insurance they have.

 

It makes a difference in our recommendations, for example, if a spouse is going to continue to work and have employer-sponsored coverage. In addition, we want to know about their financial stability, assets, investments, retirement plans and other insurance coverage. Seniors often believe that Medicare will cover long-term care services, such as at-home professional aid, assisted living facilities or nursing home expenses. They are surprised to learn that Medicare does not cover these costs and that the expenses associated with long-term care can negatively affect their retirement security.

 

Our agents will also offer to review the other promotional and educational materials seniors may have collected. We understand they've been inundated with so much that it's confusing and overwhelming to sort through it alone. We want to make sure they don't throw away any paperwork they might need to apply for Medicare, Medicare Supplemental plans, Medicare Advantage plans or prescription drug coverage.

 

The full fact-finder also allows us to follow up with clients after their Medicare decisions are made to discuss other financial concerns or goals. We use a client discussion tool called the "Life Event Financial Security Continuum." The graphic is in the shape of a wheel and helps us discover what's keeping our clients awake at night. We talk through the health care piece first, given their immediate concerns about Medicare. But in later discussions, we explore retirement, long-term care, death, disability, and how we can help solve problems or alleviate worries for the client as they address their financial well being.

 

In a recent situation, Danny assisted a client with a Medicare Advantage plan, and during the course of their talks, he learned the client had several other concerns. She wanted to protect her assets especially in the event of long-term care needs and create a guaranteed income stream during retirement. Over a three-month period, Danny was able to provide her with peace of mind for these two worries through a fixed indexed annuity with a guaranteed income rider for retirement as well as a single premium life insurance policy with a long-term care rider.

 

In another case, our agent was working with a soon-to-retire banking professional on Medicare education and supplemental plans. Through conversation and follow up, the agent learned that the client wanted to leave a legacy to his son, which led to another single premium life insurance policy sale with the long-term care rider. The client liked the idea of taking care of his son while also addressing the long-term care need, all in one policy.

 

These additional financial needs may never have been tackled if the agent hadn't first addressed the Medicare issue competently, without sales pressure, while completing a full fact finder. Listening to clients and educating them is always worth the extra time and attention and often results in great cross-selling opportunities and referrals to other seniors who need assistance.

 

Jake Erikson, LUTC, is the branch manager of Futurity First Insurance Group's Idaho office. An MDRT qualifier with 16 years of experience in financial services, Jake is responsible for developing the company's business presence and customer base in this market area, including the active recruitment of insurance professionals.

 

Erikson, Jake

 

Source Citation Erikson, Jake. "Turning 65: a key senior-focused marketing opportunity: people reaching this critical age need your help navigating the maze of important Medicare decisions. Building a relationship through your expertise in Medicare coverage also opens doors to help you meet their other insurance and financial needs." Life Insurance Selling Oct. 2011: 72+. Small Business Collection. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A268871497

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