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What advice would you give a new insurance agent?

This is a question you may not have given any thought to. Insurance professionals tend to operate in a vacuum—sure, you see and talk with clients and prospects every day of the week, but unless you’re involved with an agent association, you may not interact with your colleagues or competitors very often, or encounter someone new to the industry. So why are we asking you how you would advise an agent who’s just getting their feet wet? That’ll become clear in a moment, but like many of us, you’re probably scratching your head trying to figure out what you would say to a new agent who asks for your advice. Maybe you’re thinking that you would tell them to RUN; after all, with all the turmoil in the industry, it may not be the ideal time to be entering the health insurance sales force. Or maybe your advice would be to take a path different from the one you chose.

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Reminder: You Can Sell Supplements All Year Long

A lot of the agents we work with at AHCP sell both individual and Medicare products. While they may have originally focused their attention on one of these two market segments, they realized somewhere along the way that there’s a lot of overlap in the way the products are sold. Agents who are successful selling individual health plans, for instance, catch on pretty quickly when they make the decision to sell Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and vice versa.

To illustrate, let’s compare subsidized Marketplace plans with Medicare Advantage plans. For both products, there’s an annual open enrollment period when people can sign up or make changes to their coverage and then special enrollment opportunities throughout the year for those who qualify. There’s also a government-run web portal where agents can compare the available options before making a recommendation to their clients. With one exception for Medicare Advantage plans, both products are guaranteed issue and members are not required to answer medical questions. And finally, in both cases the government pays a portion of the premium, meaning that that the net cost to the member is a lot less.

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Humana’s been making a lot of news lately. On January 23, a federal judge blocked the proposed $37 billion merger between Humana and Aetna. On February 14, the companies announced that they wouldn’t appeal the ruling and that that they were walking away from the deal they’d been working on for the last year-and-a-half. Then, later that same day, Humana made news once again when it announced that it would not be participating in the Obamacare exchanges in 2018. While the company will presumably continue to offer plans outside the Marketplace, it won’t be selling individual health plans eligible for a government subsidy through the federal or state exchanges.

On its own, this isn’t that big of deal. Humana had already pulled out of the Marketplace in a number of states. But now that the company has made the decision on a nationwide basis, it certainly makes you wonder whether this will be the first of multiple Marketplace exits by major insurance carriers.

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Big Insurers Call Off Mergers

In July of 2015, just weeks apart, four of the top five insurance companies in the nation announced that they would be merging with one of their big competitors: Aetna made an offer to acquire Humana for $37 billion and, in an even bigger deal, Anthem offered to purchase rival Cigna for $48 billion. Now, just a year-and-a-half later, following two adverse court decisions, both of those deals are dead.

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Five Ways to Increase Your Professionalism

You don’t have a job. Hopefully you know that by now. People with jobs simply trade time for money and may be doing something they don’t particularly like to help them achieve some larger goal. Students working their way through college have jobs.

You, on the other hand, have a career. Your goals, we hope, are more long-term in nature, and you actually plan to be doing the same thing five years from now. Insurance, you see, is a profession, and you’re an insurance professional. With that being the case, it’s worth asking the question – what steps can you take to look more professional? Here are a few ideas.

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What Trump’s Executive Order on the ACA Means

It’s been a couple weeks now since President Trump was sworn into office and almost immediately signed an executive order minimizing the economic burden of the Affordable Care Act. Since then, legal scholars, health policy experts, insurance agents, and employers have all been trying to figure out what exactly it means.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the full text of the executive order:

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Here’s a Creative Way to Get Referrals

We all know that, for nearly every product or service, people are much more likely to buy when they receive a recommendation from a friend. For some reason, though, a lot of insurance agents are reluctant to ask their satisfied clients if they know anyone who could use their service. Other brokers ask but without much success.

Whatever the reason, if you’re not getting as many names and numbers as you’d like, here’s an idea you might want to try: instead of asking for referrals, you can ask for a testimonial—a short statement that you can share on your website or on social media. Most people are happy to give you one, and when they do you’ll have a powerful tool that will help build credibility with other prospects. After all, the first thing many people do when shopping online is read the reviews.

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Sell the Whole Family!

Here’s a fun idea: ask your satisfied clients to organize an “insurance party” for their friends and family members.

These days, kitchen gadgets, jewelry, nutrition drinks, and all sorts of other items are sold at small parties organized by the company’s clients. You’ve probably been to one or more of these events yourself, and while you might have dreaded it when you were first asked, chances are you ended up having a good time and spending a little bit of money. While the concept of in-home sales parties may sound a little strange at first, companies market this way because it’s incredibly effective.

Insurance agents, however, don’t typically ask their clients to set up these sorts of events. Why not? Everyone needs to protect their family from financial loss, and existing customers certainly see the benefit in the products they purchased.

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Insurance across state lines – is this really a good idea?

In reviewing the various ACA replacement proposals, there’s one suggestion that keeps popping up again and again: allowing carriers to sell health insurance across state lines. President-elect Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and HHS Secretary Nominee Tom Price all support this idea, as do Ted Cruz, Orrin Hatch, and other prominent Republicans who have also introduced their own health care bills.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act, though, are quick to point out that this recommendation will do little, if anything, to bring down costs or reduce the number of uninsured. Their argument is that almost all health insurance plans work with provider networks that may not be available in all states, which makes it difficult, if not impossible to expand to areas where they don’t have a network providers, whether selling across state lines is legal or not. In fact, many markets have a single dominant carrier with large market share, because it has the best provider discounts. Since the rates carriers charge are directly related to the contracts they have with network doctors and hospitals, it’s difficult for vendors to enter a new market.

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You’ve probably seen the news recently about EpiPen’s very public “shaming” over what many consumers believe to be unethical price increases on its life-saving epinephrine injections. People with severe allergies, including a lot of children, rely on EpiPens when they have an allergic reaction. Schools across the country stock the pens just in case something happens, and worried parents make sure they have a couple on hand at all times.

What people are so upset about is the fact that EpiPen has increased its price significantly over the past few years, from about $50 per shot in 2007 to more than $300 per shot today according to Bloomberg. In 2012, EpiPen’s parent company Mylan started selling the epinephrine auto-injector only in two-packs (even though they expire after one year), doubling the price consumers must pay at the pharmacy.

Though the price of EpiPens has risen significantly faster than inflation for the past few years, there’s no evidence that the product has become more difficult or costly to make; greed appears to be the driving factor behind the price increases.

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