Thoughts on Thanksgiving

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Renée Lemens


“In a few years, I’m going to be obsolete.” That statement was made to me recently by a dear friend and a long-time insurance agent who was quite put out that a client had enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan directly over the internet. “My clients can look at plans on Medicare’s website, and can either call the company directly or hop on the website and apply. I’m going to be out of business.”

She’s not the only agent who has expressed these doubts about the future. So much information is available online now, and you really never see any press encouraging people to discuss their options with insurance agents. People are constantly being referred to Medicare’s website, to state SHIP programs and directly to carriers by Medicare, by articles, and by their state insurance departments. It’s enough to make any agent doubt his or her future relevance in this market.

“That’s never going to happen,” I said to my friend, and continue to say when agents question their future in the Medicare market. We’re all dealing with information overload, and your Medicare clients are no exception. With good intentions, many of the folks who are turning 65 and are internet-savvy turn to Medicare’s website and publications as their primary resource for beginning their research.

Let me ask you, the insurance-licensed reader, have you ever read the Medicare and You handbook? Now just imagine someone with no insurance background trying to learn about how Medicare works and making a good coverage decision based on that publication alone. Good luck!

I’ve shared a personal story with the agents who have called me on this topic to illustrate just how relevant they are going to remain in the future. I have a family member who reached out to me about two years ago. This man holds a Master’s degree in finance, and held a high-level executive position in that industry for over 30 years before he retired. He was turning 65 in a few months, and needed help.

“Renee,” he said to me, “I thought this would be a piece of cake. I’ve been to Medicare’s website several times. I’ve read many of the publications. I’ve done general research on the internet and read a bunch of articles. I just don’t know what to do. I can’t figure out what’s going to be best for me.”

I recommended a good local agent to him, and didn’t think about it again until about a month later when he called to thank me. He said the agent laid everything out for him in such understandable terms, and made a recommendation based on his needs that was a perfect fit. He was so relieved and grateful.

I’ve worked with the Medicare program in one way or another for over 25 years, and in the insurance industry for 20 years, and I have come to deeply respect and value the role of the independent insurance agent. Yes, you can make a very good living in this industry! But those who are truly successful understand the bigger picture and their important role.

You are serving a vulnerable population, our seniors, and helping them to navigate a really complex health system that can be overwhelming to them. You are taking the hard-to-understand concept of Medicare and breaking it down for them into understandable pieces. You are listening to them, discovering their needs, and finding the best plan to meet those needs. You will never be obsolete. And this Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful for all of you, the independent agents.

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Renée Lemens