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AEP prep advice from IMO execs: Part II

Brian Anderson

As Oct. 15 quickly approaches, we asked some top FMO execs in the senior market to share their insight into how agents can best prepare for Medicare’s Annual Election Period – and what they can do to make sure things are clicking on all cylinders during the all-important 54-day stretch.

In questions 1-3 earlier this week in Part I, the FMO execs tackled topics including emerging opportunities for agents, potential obstacles and advice for dealing with the stress that goes along with AEP planning and execution.

In Part II, the experts talk about working smarter during AEP, specific ways these IMOs are helping their agents prepare for the busy season, and what has to go right if this will be looked back on as a successful AEP come mid-December.

We want to give a special thanks to Craig Ritter of Ritter Insurance Marketing, Josh Vandenberg of Precision Senior Marketing, JoAnn Wray of Senior Marketing Specialists and Ryan Kimble of Agent Pipeline, Inc., for taking the time to provide their unique perspective (please see bios for all four execs at the end of this article).

Working smarter this AEP

Question #4: We’ve heard that hiring an assistant (or even additional help if you already have an assistant) during AEP can be worthwhile to allow the agent to spend more time selling and less time on paperwork. Any thoughts on how agents can “work smarter” this fall?

JoAnn Wray: We absolutely agree that hiring additional staffing before, during, and after AEP is a very beneficial investment. Making appointments, reassuring current clients, setting follow-up calls, and creating that image to your customers that you are more than just their Medicare agent – you are a professional advisor with a team of professionals to assist you.

Josh Vandenberg: Absolutely, the more help the better! We also recommend agents use eApps whenever possible. Most of the carriers now offer a tablet app or eApp that agents can use. eApps not only eliminate pending applications but they also ensure legibility and transmission of the enrollment. The less time you spend following up on received apps and pending items the more clients you can sell.

Craig Ritter

Craig Ritter: Companies are developing better technology for application submission and Scope of Appointment collection (via email and telephonically). Having the ability to conduct enrollment activity electronically is a big time-saver for agents, plus it’s helpful to see your enrollments in one place. I recommend agents “test drive” some of this new technology before AEP, so that they are comfortable using it when AEP arrives!

Ryan Kimble: • Eliminate duplicative work. Electronic enrollment is one of the best moves agents can make to “work smarter.” My suggestion is for agents to enroll their clients directly through each company’s enrollment tool when that is an available option. It gives them the best chance of getting the enrollment submitted correctly the first time.

• If they are going to hire an assistant, they need to make sure their assistant is properly trained. CMS and the carriers have specific training they need to go through before they can work with MA enrollments or interact with members.

• Thoughts on the advice here, or have your own comments about preparing for AEP? Please share on this new thread: AEP prep advice from IMO leaders

How IMOs are helping agents be ready

Question #5: Beyond what you may have already covered, what are some ways your company is helping agents prepare for AEP?

Craig Ritter: We’ve built “carrier information pages” that list out all the critical information about each carriers. I call it answering the “how do I” questions. How do I contract, how do I certify, how do I order supplies, how do I submit business, etc. We’ve also developed a CMS-approved website for agent use called Medicareful.com which allows agents to show their clients plan information and even conduct enrollment activities on their own website for SilverScript PDP. The enrollment function is “consumer directed” so it’s really for remote sales, not for face-to-face selling. We are planning on adding more enrollment in 2017, but wanted to get this first AEP under our belts! We also have an electronic Scope of Appointment function we hope to have available prior to AEP, but which is currently under compliance review with our lead plan.

Ryan Kimble: Agent Pipeline offers top-in-class agent support. We assist agents by providing guidelines for certifications; reminders for the completion of those certifications; guides and assistance with supply ordering; and guides for completing and submitting enrollments. We review local market benefits for each carrier upon immediate release of product information. Agent Pipeline also helps our agents with compliance reviews, marketing assistance, lead programs and unique selling opportunities. We provide a unique hands-on approach to assisting agents with leading online technology tools, consistent education, marketing analytics, and product reviews and announcements. We keep agents on the cutting edge of the market and equip them with all of the tools necessary to do what they do best.

JoAnn Wray: Senior Marketing Specialists has released our annual AEP Tool-Box with links and compliant resources for our agents to use throughout AEP and beyond. We have an AEP Guide with form letters they can use for marketing that is also full of very useful marketing ideas to help keep the agents focused. This is all FREE to any agents that we work with. We have several short videos for agents with common concerns and strategies to help them maximize their time and efforts. We also created the industry’s only “Election Period Assistant” – simply answer 3-4 questions and it steers you to the correct Election Period. This saves agents, on hundreds of applications, from selecting the wrong election period. In addition to all these resources, we offer our contracted agents personalized assistance, market analysis, and access to our state-of-the-art quote engine.

Josh Vandenberg

Josh Vandenberg: As a free service, PSM offers the below incentives and technology platforms to our producers to help ensure a successful AEP and beyond:· Lead Incentives

· Quote Engines

· Access to CRM

· Agent Support

• Thoughts on the advice here, or have your own comments about preparing for AEP? Please share on this new thread: AEP prep advice from IMO leaders

Keys to a successful AEP

Question #6: If your company and most of your agents are celebrating a very successful AEP on Dec. 8, what will have went right?

Josh Vandenberg: The most important thing to go right is for the client to be enrolled in the best plan for them! Other than making sure the client has the right plan, a successful AEP for us is one where our agents write a good volume of business, our carrier partners are prepared and process enrollments in a timely manner and our agents get paid correctly.

JoAnn Wray

JoAnn Wray: What will have went right is not missing out on any key markets. We strive to stay attentive and on point with market changes, who is expanding their footprint, and where they are expanding. Our marketing team closely follows market trends and key issues in focus markets across the country. We do this to make sure our agents are aware of every opportunity available to them within their communities and prospecting areas. Additionally, our agents have ready access to every member of our team, allowing us to promptly answer client and market-specific questions.

Ryan Kimble: We will have upheld our promise to agents by providing support, information, education, marketing tools and guidance on the most competitive products available.

Craig Ritter: It’ll be due to the hard work and dedication of our agents. I’m always blown away at how our agents rise to the occasion year after year in the face of changes in regulation, plan changes and how they overcome the stress of a compressed selling season.

Final words of advice

Question #7: Final thoughts?

Ryan Kimble: The AEP can become a time when we all focus in on the “numbers game.” We have to look past the numbers of the AEP and focus on what we are all here to do. If I had to boil that down to one sentence it would be: We are all here to help improve the beneficiary’s overall access to quality health care. That is something that inspires all of us to work harder to help people in their time of need.

Craig Ritter: Agents really need to understand the regulations around the Medicare business. There may be newer agents entering the Medicare market who are not familiar with CMS regulations and the Medicare marketing guidelines. Things that seem to be reasonable like calling a referral or calling someone who disenrolled from a plan to “conserve the business” are not permitted. Get to know your FMO’s compliance officer or the compliance officers of the companies you work with and ask questions first if you are unsure!

About the panelists:

Ryan Kimble is the President of St. Albans, W.V.-based Agent Pipeline, Inc., a leading national marketing organization dedicated to delivering the most competitive products and outstanding support to independent agents. Ryan began his career in the insurance business at Agent Pipeline (formerly Integrated Benefits, Inc., founded in 1988) following his graduation from Liberty College, earning a BS degree in Business Finance. Ryan introduced the company to Medicare products and began the company’s national expansion in 2001. Agent Pipeline now represents over 100 companies with a focus on Medicare, Individual and Group ACA Health, Telesales, Supplemental and Life Insurance products. For more information call 800-962-4693 or email [email protected].

Craig Ritter is the President and Owner of Harrisburg, Pa.-based Ritter Insurance Marketing, an Independent Marketing Organization specializing in senior life and health insurance products such as Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, Long Term Care and Final Expense insurance. His popular Medicare blog, which started in 2008, is widely read by agents and insurance industry insiders. Under Craig’s leadership, Ritter has grown from a small business with six employees to a company with 140 full-time employees and offices in Harrisburg, Atlanta, Syracuse, Philadelphia, and Omaha, plus more locations in the works.

Josh Vandenberg is a Managing Partner for Precision Senior Marketing. He has been in the insurance industry since 1999 and started the company in 2006 along with his brother, Lucas Vandenberg. Located in Austin, Texas, Precision Senior Marketing is national marketing organization focused primarily on the rapidly growing senior market. Their specialties includeMedicare Advantage, Medicare Supplements, Final Expense. Josh can be reached at (800) 998-7715 or email [email protected].

JoAnn Wray
, President of Senior Marketing Specialists, has watched the company go from a small career agency in Mid-Missouri to one of the largest and most nationally recognized FMOs across the country. The company has specialized in only one thing through the years – Medicare and all products that are associated with Medicare (Medicare Supplement, MedicareAdvantage, Final Expense, Recovery Care, Short-Term Care, Long-Term Care, and Home Health Care). The Medicare market has definitely changed over the years, but the company’s devotion to agents and the need for the products has not changed at all.

See also:

• Thoughts on the advice here, or have your own comments about preparing for AEP? Please share on this new thread: AEP prep advice from IMO leaders



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