You may be wondering if you need a Medicare insurance agent to help you enroll in Medicare plans. On the other hand, you might have wondered if using a Medicare agent would cost you money.
The simple answer is yes, you will need an agent to enroll in Medicare health care options such as Part D plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance.
Will it cost you? No, you will not need to pay an agent anything. How then do these insurance agents make a living? In this article, we will demystify all of your questions and help you make the right, informed choices on Medicare.
Who Is a Medicare Agent?
A Medicare Agent is a licensed person that provides information about Medicare and its options, considering your needs, location, budget, and health status, amongst others.
Medicare agents should be privy to lots of carrier information that the general public does not know or may not have a detailed understanding about. Carrier information includes guidelines, rates, rate increase history, hidden costs, deadlines, and the pros and cons of the several Medicare options. An agent also has real-time, up-to-date information about policies, plans' networks, and other information you may not find online.
Additionally, information and guideline rules about Medicare insurance may vary from county to county or company to company. Lack of consistency makes it difficult for beneficiaries to keep up and make the best individualized choices. Good agents act as guides to prevent confusion and poor choices.
Many beneficiaries think they have to pay for agent services. On the contrary, working with an agent is free and may save you time, money, and headache. That being said not all agents are created equal and there are some important things you should be aware of before you speak to just any agent. We will discuss those details further on in this article.
What Are The Different Types of Medicare Agents in The Insurance Market?
There are two types of agents- captive and independent.
Captive Medicare Agents
Captive insurance agents work for one insurance company and can only sell that company's policies. In other words, they can only provide information, advice, and recommendations on the insurance company policies they work for.
The downside to working with a captive agent is that you have limited options to choose from and cannot explore other plans from other insurance companies, even if they fit your needs better. Although a captive agent may have expert knowledge about the plans he sells. Chances are they may give a biased opinion or recommendation about a plan because it is offered by the specific company they are bound to.
Independent Medicare Agents
As the name implies, independent agents do not work for an insurance company like captive agents do. Instead they work for you to help you find a company and plan that best fits your needs. They are also known as insurance brokers or Medicare insurance brokers. They work and represent multiple insurance companies and can sell various policies from several providers.
Working with an independent agent over a captive agent has more advantages. For one, your options are not streamlined to what one insurer offers. You have the luxury of picking from dozens of policies that will fit your needs and finances.
Independent agents are more likely to provide objective advice and recommendations because they are not employed by an insurance company. They can help you choose plans that are MOST suitable for you.
An argument some people raise is that independent agents may not have expert or comprehensive knowledge of the individual plans they sell because they represent a lot. However, this is not true, especially for us at Your Local Medicare Help. We are an independent agency and our agents go through rigorous tests and training at the federal level and by each company we choose to represent to remain certified each year. It's safe to say, we know our stuff.
Why Do You Need A Medicare Agent?
There are many reasons you need a Medicare Agent. As much as not every agent provides the following benefits, a great and experienced independent agent will do so.
Here are a few reasons so many people choose to work with us at Your Local Medicare Help:
Has No Additional Fees
People expect to pay a separate fee for agent services. You do not have to. Your premium will be the same whether you use an agent or buy directly from the insurance company.
Everyone is looking for money-saving options. Working with "Your Local Medicare Help" provides you with one by comparing plans with many top rated carriers. You can save more money on monthly premiums with a good independent agent.
Provides Unbiased Opinion
Are you looking for an unbiased opinion about Medicare plans? Then, it would help if you had an independent agent. Independent agents like us can help you with objective suggestions on the different Medicare plans and companies as we work for you, not an insurance company.
Gives You Petter Prices
Agents with experience know how to look at more than just the initial plan premium. They will look at other factors such as rate increase history to help you purchase plans that will save you money long term. We, at Your Local Medicare Help are great at providing you these type of details.
Searching and reading the dozens of policies available can be time consuming. On your own, you will have to note down the different insurers in your locations and the Medicare plans they offer, their prices, and conditions.
However, you can save time with Your Local Medicare Help. As a licenced agent, we can quickly search for suitable plans from different insurance companies.
Provides Up-to-Date Information
As we age sometimes our healthcare needs change. We are able to provide you with annual, up-to-date information on plan options so you are always in the best plan for your needs.
Provides Better Understanding and Clarity
Medicare and its numerous policies can look similar, from jargon, coverage, and costs, to deadlines. For a new customer or even an old novice, this may be a puzzle. For better understanding, use an independent agent.
Eases Decision Making
Going through the tons of Medicare plans can leave you confused. An agent can help decide what plan is suitable for you based on your unique needs and wants.
When you employ our services, we consider your needs and finances and provide streamlined options you can choose from.
An agent, once they are licensed in your state, can help you enroll regardless of where they work.
You do not need to go or travel anywhere. An agent can help you enroll in Medicare online or over a phone call. With us, enrollment is made easier, quicker, and at your convenience.
Helps Review Your Current Coverage
If you are an old beneficiary of Medicare, we can help you evaluate your current plan to see if it still meets your needs. If you need to switch plans, we can provide options you pick from and help you switch plans.
Assists With Medical Underwriting
Medical underwriting is necessary if you want to buy a Medigap plan outside of your open enrollment period. As you get older your Medigap premiums will increase. We help our clients continue to shop their Medigap plan premiums to make sure they are continually getting the best rate for the same coverage in the years ahead.
If free, how does a Medicare Agent get paid?
Beneficiaries may wonder how their insurance agent gets paid if they offer their services for free. Other customers may be skeptical and may not want to trust the agent or the service rendered.
To help build trust, here is how Medicare agents make a living even though they do not collect a dime from you or other customers.
Commission From Initial Enrollment
Medicare agents get paid a commission when consumers enroll in a new plan. This could be when you are newly eligible and enroll in your first plan or when you switch plans from your previous one.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulate and annually update the maximum amounts of commission Medicare insurance agents receive for selling Medicare Advantage with prescription drug coverage (MADP) and Part D plans (PDP).
Although regulated, the maximum commission amounts depend on the county and state where the plan is available and the insurance company. In other words, the insurance providers can decide to pay what they want to their agents as long as it is not above the maximum commission amount.
As long as you remain a subscriber, your agent gets paid. When you continue with a plan for another year or make an "unlike plan type" change and remain with it, your agent gets to earn some money. In some cases, your agent suggests you enroll in a new but similar plan. You do not need to raise any eyebrows; it will still not cost you a dime.
Note that a captive agent would not want a client to change their plan even if the client will benefit from the change. On the other hand, an independent agent would gladly assist the client in changing if there truly is a better option. The reason is not far-fetched. The independent agent will be paid all the same whether they move you to another plan or not.
"Renewal commission" is another way Medicare insurance brokers get paid. The insurance company pays a renewal commission to the agent that helped you enroll in a plan if you continue with that plan for another year or make a "like plan type" change. "Like plan type" change implies switching plans within the same Medicare option. For example, changing from one Medicare Advantage Plans with Drug coverage (MAPD) to another.
The only difference is that the renewal commission is half the amount paid when you initially enrolled in the plan.
Renewal commission may be for a period (five or six years) or last a lifetime with no expiration date. How long the renewal commission will be paid on a plan depends on the insurance carrier and the Medicare plan type.
Earning a salary depends on what type of agent a person is. Captive agents are employed by specific insurance companies and receive salaries like every other employee in their workplace. This does not affect the commission they receive on plans they sell.
Why Talk to Us About Your Medicare Options?
The truth is getting a Medigap or a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan will require, in most cases, speaking with an agent. As much as choosing an agent depends largely on the consumer's needs, the best move is to use an experienced independent agent over a captive agent.
Independent agents are more likely to have various plans to review and pick from that will work for several people. On the other hand, a captive agent is tasked with selling a plan even if it is not the best fit for the prospect.
However, not all independent agents are the same for Medicare. Many certify with only one or two companies or, worse yet, only sell Medicare Supplement insurance and avoid Part C or Part D altogether. That is no better than speaking to a captive agent because the advice and recommendation you get will be biased and based only on the plans that the agent represents.
Why wouldn't an agent offer both MAPD and Medicare Supplement or only represent one or two companies? The answer is they are not ready to put in the work. The more companies you represent, the more work is required.
At Your Local Medicare Help, we have to take a federal test every year to certify that we are competent and compliant with Medicare rules and regulations and changes.
We have to get a 90% or higher within three attempts, or we are out of business and cannot help people that year. In addition, each company we choose to represent on the medicare advantage/Part D side requires additional training and testing, which takes much more time and competency. Many agents cannot or will not go through the additional work to do this.
Long story short, all agents are not the same. Also, many agents are brand new to the business. Due to inexperience, we have found many people in bad financial and healthcare situations because they received inaccurate advice from an agent or a volunteer. When it comes to Medicare, experience and impartial education will save people time, money, and headache.
So, in truth, not using an agent or not using the best agents may cost someone more money and headache than they realize.
Learn More About Us
As an unbiased broker, we at “your local Medicare help” assist our clients by figuring out what plans their doctor takes. Then we help the client find the most competitive plans, and they never pay us anything.
With so many options available, Medicare can be confusing. Whether you are looking for someone to come and sit down with you at your kitchen table, meet at our local office over a cup of coffee or discuss your options over the phone. We are here to help.
No matter the environment, we have the resources and technology to make enrollment in Medicare plans accurate and simple. Our personalized expert guidance is FREE of charge so that you can save time and money! And even better, when you take care of your Medicare plan enrollment with us, we make a donation to Operation Underground Railroad, which is pioneering the fight against Human Sex Trafficking. Read More HERE