The first thing you need to know is that the agent is licensed!
This sounds like complete common sense, but an example from last month shows you can’t always count on appearances. I was speaking with a gentleman in Texas who wanted to enroll in a specific plan with me. I did the research and gave him a quote.
He says, “$135? I got a cheaper quote for that about 6 months ago from another agent.”
I knew that the price could not have changed, so as I probed further into this price discrepancy he mentions, “Well, my wife actually looked into getting the policy but she found out he wasn’t licensed.”
Whaaaat??? An unlicensed insurance agent?? I have no idea what this “agent” had in mind as he was trying to gain this client’s business. He could not even be contracted with the carrier without being licensed. He could not have gotten paid by the carrier. So what was he going to do with this client’s money? I have no idea.
Be careful. Trust but verify.
The second item you need to check are your prescriptions
Clients are quick to forget that what matters is not the “premium” (price) for their drug plan; it’s the premium PLUS the total cost of the drugs for the year that matters.
It’s tempting to select a very inexpensive prescription drug plan (PDP), especially as you’re comparing notes with friends, family, and neighbors about their coverage. They have a tendency to make you second guess yourself if you find out their premium is lower than yours. “You should talk to MY guy!”, they say.
What they don’t understand is that the best agents will actually take all of your prescription medicine information, put it into software that will analyze the cost of each drug across various plan, then total those figures together with the annual premium of the PDP, and then sort those plans for you from least expensive to most expensive.
That is the main criteria you will use for selecting your plan. You don’t need to talk to Uncle Bob’s “guy” because he happened to know of a plan with a cheaper premium. As Kramer from Seinfeld once quipped, “What is this, amateur hour???“
The third thing you need to verify is the network of doctors and other providers
Never let an insurance agent enroll you in a medicare insurance plan without a discussion of your doctors or other important providers and facilities that may be crucial to your satisfaction on your plan.
If you have major heart problems, or cancer, or particular health needs for which you’ve already assembled a team of doctors and specialists around, can you imagine your disappointment when you find out you can’t go see any of them anymore? At least for the next year?
This is outrageous. And many agents are in it “for the quick sale”, and they could not care less about how happy you are in your plan, or how well that plan serves your needs. Caveat emptor.
The fourth thing you want to know is the likelihood of price increases
A plan might sound particularly appealing when an agent first quotes it. But is it a plan that is notorious for getting clients in with a lowball offer only to immediately raise the price in subsequent years?
Here’s the problem with that: if your health changes, depending on the type of plan you’ve enrolled in, you may be stuck. Forever. Yikes. Tread cautiously.
Lastly, have you chosen the right agent?
Ideally, a client-agent relationship should last a lifetime. It’s a lot easier to have one agent who knows the entirety of your needs, one who’s been around the block with you, who you don’t have to explain your entire list of needs to from scratch every year.
It’s more efficient to maintain the momentum of a body in motion than to waste energy on complete stops and complete starts every year. So getting a solid relationship formed and maintaining that relationship is a lot more rewarding than answering the slew of phone calls that come every season and telling your personal, health, and financial business to complete strangers.
But that’s for you to decide. As for me, that’s how I like to do business.