October 16, 2016
I got to the office in the middle of the second quarter of the Browns’ game. I left a 7:30. It was time. I had spotted a unicorn.
Open enrollment for Medicare Part D (Rx) and Medicare Advantage products technically began yesterday. It will officially start at 9 AM tomorrow morning in my office. Most of my Medicare visitors will be coming to confirm that they don’t need to do anything. No changes, just a cup of coffee and some conversation.
My real challenge is the open enrollment for individuals under age 65. Most of my clients received their renewal packet on Saturday, October 1st. They began calling my office that day. Unfortunately, we, the agents that service these insureds, never got our copy. We were told that the packets were in the mail. We were also told that we could download, one 8 page renewal at a time, from the insurer’s website. Hundreds and hundreds of renewals. I gave up and started to pull and print these a few days ago.
And today I am in my office to work on these renewals.
I am not complaining. I am not telling you about this process because I am some kind of insurance martyr. I love this gig and I’m not the only guy working on a Sunday. Successful agents throughout this country are evaluating their clients’ 2017 health insurance options.
One by one I review each renewal. Should the client stay with his/her current insurer or move? Would a higher deductible save enough money to be worth the additional exposure? Is this the year we should try for a tax credit subsidy? And then, once I know what I would like for them to do, I send them an email or a hand-written note.
This process isn’t fast and it can’t be delegated. The insureds are counting on the agent’s experience and expertise. The health insurance premium may be someone’s second or third largest monthly bill. My goal is to have all of these processed before November 1st. My fellow agents are working just as hard.
I had predicted a tough year. I expected increases of 15% – 20%. Policies that have Rx and office visit copays are coming in around 17%. My HSA policies seem to be averaging a few percent less. The highest HSA deductible plans, now $6,400, were renewed at the best rates. Those policies may work for some people, but not for everyone. Analyzing the options, not simply choosing the cheapest, gives us a better claims experience should you ever get sick or injured.
One of the clients that contacted me on the 1st was particularly concerned about his increase. He and his family got hammered. 25%! It took some time this afternoon to figure out why. What happened? I determined that his son was the main reason for the price jump. He turned 21 this year and will now be rated as an adult, not a child. Just to be sure, I went to the insurer’s website and ran a quote as if he was only 20. I don’t know if this family will be any happier about their new rate, but at least they will understand why.
A unicorn is a mythical creature. They supposedly exist, but no one has ever seen one. My insurers said that the renewal rates were the best that they could offer. Heck, some people might even see a rate reduction as the deductible on the HSA qualified policy drifts from $6,000 to $6,400. It was about 7 PM when I found a renewal with a 7% decrease. A decrease! I rerated the family just to be sure. I sent the client an email, packed up my stuff, and locked up.
Once you spot a unicorn, it must be time to go home.