You almost certainly get a lot of phone calls, e-mails, and postcards from insurance companies competing for your business, but don’t fall victim to overzealous agents promising things they can’t deliver, or worse, misleading you with wrong information. It’s no secret that insurance is a very competitive business, with agents constantly trying to figure out new ways to convert a competitor’s clients into their own. Some of these methods are respectable, some less so. The problem comes in when they spend more time on trying to write a particular policy that’s offering a commission bonus than trying to take care of their existing clients or on finding out what a prospective client actually wants or needs. Here are some things that you need to know to protect yourself when these situations come up.
Don’t misunderstand: there’s nothing wrong with changing your coverage if it really is in your best interest. There may be a new carrier in the market with a new plan that works better for you, or your current carrier may be planning a rate increase. In the case of Medicare Part D (drug) plans, it’s absolutely vital to shop those with a qualified agent every year during the Annual Enrollment Period because they do change frequently. But more often than not, cold callers are just trying to sell you something that may or may not be in your best interest. When you get those, there are some things that you need to know and questions that you need to ask in order to protect yourself.
For example, while most vision and dental policies will cover cleanings and preventive care right away, most have waiting periods of 1-3 years for major work like caps and root canals. This is to prevent people from buying the policy, getting a lot of expensive work done, and then cancelling the policy immediately. That’s common sense, because if the carriers allowed that to happen they would be out of business pretty quickly. But what if someone calls and says you can get the same coverage for less money if you get a new policy? What the caller says may be true – there may indeed be a comparable plan available for less money, but what these callers don’t tell you is that if you’ve met all of your waiting periods on your current plan you will have to start over with the new policy, even if it’s with the same company. That means you could find yourself unable to have work done that you need until the new waiting period has passed.
Similarly, Medicare options can be confusing for many seniors, and some companies try to use that to push beneficiaries into enrolling in a plan that doesn’t suit their needs by using slanted language like “extra benefits” and “get everything you are entitled to.” They usually leave out critical facts, especially that these plans are all network-based and carry lots of copays and other out-of-pocket expenses that can get quite high. Additionally, just because there is a supplement policy that has a lower premium than yours doesn’t mean that you can or should get it. Except in very specific situations, Medigap policies require you to answer health questions and be approved by underwriting, and many people won’t be approved for the lowest rates. Some carriers are also more prone to large premium increases than others, so there’s also the consideration of what you will be paying year after year, not just this year. That’s why it’s important to have a personal relationship with an agent you trust who will get you into the best plan you are qualified for. Be suspicious of anyone who tells you over the phone that you can definitely be approved for a new supplement.
We build our business on quality relationships with our clients, and so does any other reputable agent. Call centers have their place, but there’s no substitute for a good agent who knows you and your needs. If you receive one of these calls, be sure to ask what the agency name is and where they are located, and don’t agree to anything over the phone. Write down the information, and if you have questions about what you’ve been told you can always contact us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have, regardless of whether you’re currently our client or not. We’re here to help you protect yourself, and frequently that takes the form of just answering questions and talking honestly to people. It’s not always about making a sale. Sometimes it’s just about helping people.