Insurance agents who make a living enrolling seniors in Medicare Advantage plans are gearing up for the Medicare Annual Election Period which runs from November 15th to December 31st. This is the period during which seniors and younger Medicare beneficiaries can change their Medicare Advantage plan or their Part D drug plan. People with only Medicare can join a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D plan at this time.
In past years, insurance agents had five months to enroll people in Medicare Advantage plans, but this has changed – and agents must find a way to make a year’s worth of commission between November 15th and December 31st.
Because of this new, compressed Medicare Advantage change/enrollment period, some agents are already prospecting for new business - and some of them are breaking Medicare rules. I’ve heard stories of seniors receiving phone calls from insurance agents they don’t know and don’t really want to talk to.
An agent I know (let’s call her Mary) was just telling me that one of her clients called to say an insurance agent was coming to his house the next day to talk about Medicare Advantage. The senior told Mary he had told the agent that he worked with Mary on all his insurance decisions. But the pushy insurance agent had somehow gotten the senior to agree to an appointment.
Mary called the pushy insurance agent and told him she was working with this senior and that the senior had told her he was not interested in changing his Medicare Advantage plan. Mary (politely) told the agent to back off.
What this pushy insurance agent did was not only unethical, it was against Medicare rules. Medicare has told all Medicare Advantage plans that insurance agents contracted with them are not allowed to make calls to people who are not their clients. This is “cold calling” and it is forbidden by Medicare rules.
Unfortunately, there are insurance agents out there who break the rules and give everyone in the business a bad name. And unfortunately, many seniors are unable to push back against pushy salesmen (and women) and end up letting them into their homes.
Insurance agents can call their clients to talk about upcoming changes in their Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, but they can’t call people they don’t know.
Information on Medicare Advantage changes for 2011 is not yet available to agents. People enrolled in Medicare Advantage won’t receive information from their plan until mid-to-late October.
Changes to Medicare Advantage Enrollment Periods:
In past years, people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans could change plans between November 15th and December 31st and then again from January 1st to March 31st. In 2011, the January through March Open Enrollment period is gone and everyone will be “locked into” their Medicare coverage for the rest of the year (unless they meet certain conditions that give them a special enrollment period).
From January 1st to February 14th, people will be able to disenroll from their Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Medicare (and sign up for a standalone Part D plan). If a senior is unhappy with his Medicare Advantage plan in January, this will be his only option for making a change. Otherwise, he is stuck with his Medicare Advantage plan for the rest of the year.