By: JOANNE GIARDINI-RUSSELL
Let me share with you my background and why I believe that Medicare – as a topic – can help you turn your practice into one that can be truly holistic.
I graduated with a marketing degree in 1987 and landed in the medical malpractice field. That began my career in insurance and financial services. I worked within all lines of insurance and ventured into the financial field in 2010. The world of Series 6, 63, 65 and compliance. Let’s just say it wasn’t for me. My nature is black and white; insurance just fits.
My 22-year-old son, Cameron, graduated from college and wanted sales experience. I introduced him to some Medicare salespeople to begin. Little did I know that my life would change after he started a job.
Cameron loves to learn. After each section of Medicare that he tackled, he would call me and ask, “Did you know this?” My answer was typically, “Wow! No, I didn’t.”
I began polling financial advisors, CPAs and insurance folks around me: What did they know about Medicare? Not very much, it turns out. In fact, I visited a firm where I asked seven financial advisors, “Is Medicare’s Part A mandatory?” Seven out of seven answered the question incorrectly (it is not). Who is guiding the client?
Medicare is highly complex and causes your clients amazing levels of stress. Mistakes are routinely made when making Medicare coverage decisions. Some mistakes can be irreparable and cause your clients to overspend by tens of thousands of dollars over their lifetimes.
I know exactly what conversations are not taking place in the majority of financial advisors’ offices across the land.
My mission is to change that. I have left my Series 6, 63 and 65 behind to work exclusively in the Medicare space.
There are 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day. Do you know where they are turning for Medicare advice? We do. And it’s not from you or your firm.
They are turning to their friends, their relatives, their mail carrier, their doctor and their neighbors. They are hearing incorrect information on TV or getting information that doesn’t pertain to them at all from well-intentioned friends and family. They are signing up for plans that the billing manager at their doctor’s office prefers to accept for prompt payment to that office, for example. How’s that for choosing your lifetime health care plan? If it’s good for the physician’s office, it must be good for you — right?
Or, worse for you as a financial advisor, your clients are seeking information from a library flyer or a dinner seminar. They are being introduced to new advisors who are seeking new clients. We can vouch for the power that this health care conversation brings to the table. Health care is incredibly personal to people in their mid-60s. If you can help solve this puzzle for them, you’ve become their trusted advisor. Be sure that your client “love” is going to you and not someone else.
Solution? Incorporate the Medicare conversation into your practice and watch how your clients react. Advisors who take on the challenge of learning a bit about Medicare and deciding to broach the subject are reaping the rewards.
Here are some starter ideas:
» Pair up with a firm or person that specializes in Medicare. By this, I mean someone who handles Medicare coaching and products 100 percent of the time and offers no other types of financial products. These folks are out there.
» Communicate to your clients that you have a resource that can help them navigate through the Medicare system. Your clients tell us that they didn’t think to ask you, their advisor, for a referral to a Medicare solution. If you want to be that true financial quarterback, you need to add the Medicare position to your team.
» Build some Medicare questions into your client review meetings. Start with the basics: Are you on Medicare Part A and/or Part B? Should you be enrolled? What type of Medicare supplement do you have? Do you understand how it works? We feed our advisors with the questions so they sound intelligent on a topic that is alien to them.
» As a firm or advisor, don’t try and sell Medicare products unless you designate one or a few people in your firm to solely handle Medicare coaching. This is a jack of all trades, master of none conversation. It doesn’t end well.
» Don’t suggest shared compensation from your Medicare partner. First, the commissions in the Medicare world, and second, keep it clean with no financial incentive involved.
» Use webinars, seminars and podcasts to communicate with your clients. We find these media to be very successful with the 65-plus market. Suggest that your clients share these events with family and friends. The advisors we know are meeting new family members via the Medicare conversation. Again, if you don’t want to produce these shows, pair up with a Medicare firm that you can plug into.
» Schedule a day in your conference room with appointments set on the hour for clients to have their Medicare questions answered by a qualified agent. You’ll get traffic into your firm, it’s a great value-add service for the client and the Medicare partner will gain new clients. Win, win, win.
A CPA’s spouse attended our seminar. She introduced us to the small firm where he is a partner. We were able to create a group Medigap contract that saved the firm $22,000 annually on health insurance premiums and provided their age-65-and-older clients with far better health coverage. Could that $22,000 then be used to secure additional services that you can help them with?
An advisor’s client called from a cancer center telling us that she needed cancer treatments again and her transition to Medicare coverage at age 65 in a few months needed to be seamless. Could you confidently handle the question or call?
A 66-year-old man is retiring and going to live overseas for two years with his spouse. He was diagnosed with cancer as well. How do you navigate his health care to avoid financial penalties and protect his pre-existing condition time frame with Medicare?
Does it help your practice? We were virtually introduced to “Peter’s” client. She emailed me after the call and said that she was forever grateful to Peter for the introduction. Forever grateful. Do you ever hear that about an introduction to a life insurance advisor? It’s possible, but likely infrequent. We hear it routinely in the Medicare space.
Financial advisors know that expanding beyond the normal scope of the traditional financial advisor role is necessary to provide a great client experience. Leveraging expertise from outside resources allows advisors to provide a high level of service, while still focusing on their core specialties.
Give Medicare a test drive in your world. Your clients will love you for it.
Joanne Giardini-Russell is a Medicare specialist and owner of Boomer Health Group in Brighton, Mich., an independent provider of Medicare products nationally. Joanne may be contacted at email@example.com.