Before I get into the meat of this blog, I think it is important to tell you something about my experience, because I think there is a bias in my beliefs. For you to make a value judgement on my advice, I think it is important for you to know what influences that advice.
I’ve been licensed by the Florida Department of Insurance for 47 years to sell health insurance plans. For the lion’s share of that time, I’ve sold and serviced group health insurance plans. For the past 13 years I have focused almost exclusively on Medicare-related plans.
I’ve always felt strongly that I owe it to my customers to be the person to contact if there is a question or a problem with their plan. I am the person who explained and enrolled them, so I am the person to resolve questions and or problems. Agents are paid to provide that service. This responsibility helps keep me honest. In addition, I know it saves my customers time because I have answers, or I can find them much quicker than they can; and when there is a problem I know how to resolve it, knowing the solution is contractually correct.
When a customer needs help, I don’t just refer them to Member Services. Most of the licensed agents I know have the same philosophy. With that said, this is what I think you should know about “1-800-learn-what-you-are-entitled-to” advertising.
“Call To Learn What You’re Entitled To”
First and foremost, this advertising is designed to get you to call the 800 number. Everything that is said, every graphic, even how the information appears in those adds is designed to cause you to dial that number. And what is the message?
First, there is a list of benefits you may be entitled to by calling that number, such as dental, vision, hearing, and prescription coverage. Especially emphasized is an increase in your Social Security monthly retirement benefit.
The advertising clearly hopes to convey that the 800 number is THE ONLY place to go for these benefits. What is important for you to know is every benefit mentioned in those ads is available to you through the very same plans that a local agent, who lives and works in your community, would have access to discuss with you.
What Happens When You Call
When a representative of the 800 number answers your call, you’ll be asked your name and contact information, importantly, including your home zip code. Then you’ll be referred to a tele-sales agent licensed for plans in your home zip code. The tele-sales agent then will simply access the very same plans that local agents are licensed to sell.
The difference is you will never have contact with the tele-sales agent again. So, who do you call when you have questions or need help?
I think it is reasonable to ask who would better serve you. Someone with whom you will likely have one conversation and never interact with again or someone who you speak to with a local phone call, or even in person, when you have questions or need help?
Medicare Plans Aren’t Top Secret
There is no exclusivity in marketing of Medicare Advantage Plans. For example, all licensed sales agents approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to sell Humana Plans in the state of Florida, sell exactly the same plans. So you will not have access to any benefit by calling the 800 number that is not available from a local agent.
I hope you decide a local agent is the best way for you to learn about the best Medicare plan for your circumstances.