I was awake early this morning. Too early to get to work, so after some channel surfing, I lighted on “Green Acers”. The next show was in black and white, “Father Knows Best”. Between these shows was a commercial for a very reputable and household familiar brand insurance company.
They were offering their plan to people who are turning 65, on Medicare and Medicaid (which we call Medi-Cal here in California), and having just lost employer coverage They offered benefits such as no or low office co-pays, mail-order prescriptions, and a low or $0 monthly premium.
What galls me is they are not offering anything that ANY insurance company can offer this time of year.
This week I spent several hours with a family in Lake Isabella whose father dropped his good plan for one he saw advertised on television. He was attracted to the ad because it offered benefits. Interestingly, he already had those benefits on the plan that he previously had. What the ad did not tell him was that one of his expensive prescriptions were not covered on the new plan, and in fact, it offered less benefits from the plan he originally had. In our conversation, I also learned that he would need to change Primary Care doctor, as his current doctor was not on the plan’s list.
I write this on June 26. Fortunately, the family reached me on time. I was able to get a list of all the medications that “dad” was taking, and matched him up with a plan that covered all his medications, had a $0 co-pay for most, and covered his doctor. Not only that, but the specialists he was previously using in Bakersfield were covered by the plan, also at a $0 copay. His replacement plan will be effective July 1!
There is a major problem with television advertising. The ad only represents one company and one package of benefits. The enrollment is motivated by salespeople who don’t know your community. The motivation is simple. If the person can qualify for your plan, “sign them up”. That is how the salesperson on the phone gets paid. They take no interest in your doctor nor what prescriptions you are taking. And, they have no idea what other plans in your area might be a better fit for your needs.
The independent agent who specializes in Medicare works differently. In my office, I rep[resent all the companies that service the Kern River Valley with the exception of Kaiser (who does not allow agents to represent them) When Kaiser is the best fit, I assist in enrolling people but do it without compensation. The commissions are standardized for Medicare Advantage HMO plans. The companies are not allowed to offer incentives, so there is a level playing field. With this arrangement, I am able to enroll people in the plan that best fits their needs. With the selection of their Primary Care Doctor and prescription coverage, I can recommend and enroll in the best plan for the applicant.
The only reason I can think of as to why a person would not reach out to an Independent Agent is the assumption of cost. Here I sit in an office with service staff, fancy computers, and telephone lines. All this costs money, and the unsophisticated consume fears the fee we change. They are afraid of nothing. We get paid directly from the various insurance plans, and never charge a dime for our services. During the course of the year, we actually review your current coverage, and are able to recommend changes if and when the insurance plan either changes, or a better plan emerges.
When you call the independent agent, you get to talk to the same person who always talk to. You don’t get this when you deal directly to the insurance company, either the company salesperson or computer does not care for you.
Stay local. It costs you nothing and avoids the grief. The television commercial is just designed to get you to pick up the phone, or go online. You are smarter than that.