Agents who specialize in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D products have a unique opportunity under the Affordable Care Act. While thousands of group brokers nationwide are struggling to figure out how to sell individual products, agents who sell Medicare-related products already have it figured out.
The Medicare Annual Election Period begins today and runs through December 7th. During that short window of time, millions of Medicare-eligible consumers will make their benefits decision for 2014 – they can enroll in or disenroll from Medicare Advantage or Part D plans or swap their current carrier for another during this timeframe. And brokers who work in this market segment do the bulk of their selling and earn the bulk of their income during this seven-and-a-half-week enrollment period.
Well now the ACA offers these agents a couple opportunities:
1. Expand into other product lines
We’re currently in the six-month initial enrollment period for the qualified health plans sold through the individual marketplace. But starting next year, the annual enrollment period for individual plans will overlap with the annual election period for Medicare products: October 15th through December 7th. Since there are so many similarities between the Medicare market and the new individual market segment, brokers who currently sell Medicare products are well-positioned to expand into individual products without having to go through a big learning curve. They’re a lot closer to having this thing figured out than most group agents are.
2. Target early retirees
Agents who would prefer to keep focusing on the Medicare segment would still do well to market individual products to early retirees. Why? Because these early retirees will be Medicare-eligible before long, and if an agent is already helping them with their coverage, she can easily transition the clients to a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan when they turn 65.
And many of these early retirees will qualify for a generous government subsidy. Why? Because eligibility for the subsidies is based on income, not assets. If an early retiree’s income dips when he leaves his job, his family income may qualify him for a significant subsidy. This is at a time when he’s likely losing his job-based coverage and when non-subsidized individual premiums would be significant due to his age.
Here’s an example from an infographic created by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Journal of the American Medical Association of how a 60-year-old couple with a post-retirement income $25,000 per year could benefit from the premium tax credits:
Because of the couple’s age, the premium is pretty high. But because of the couple’s relatively low post-retirement income, they qualify for a significant premium tax credit, bringing the premium they’re responsible for down to a very manageable $94 per month. Older couples like this are much more likely to benefit from the tax credits and to see the value of having health insurance than a younger couple with the same income.
Put your individual sales on auto-pilot
If you specialize in Medicare-related products and see this as an opportunity, you don’t have to become an expert in individual products. In fact, you don’t even have to get certified to sell subsidized plans. All you need to do is set up a private exchange website like the one offered through Health Partners America. You can send early retirees there, let someone else sell the policy for you, and collect a share of the commission. Then, when the client turns 65, you can take over and set them up with a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan. Instead of paying for leads, you can get paid for them. What a great opportunity!