Aaron Rodgers has better taste in companies to pitch
Recently I had a brutal customer service experience. My family was travelling to our annual vacation spot in The Gulf of Mexico to Florida. Anyhow, heading south from Franklin, Tennessee we had just gotten past Atlanta and wanted to let our kids get a chance to run around after being in the minivan for hours. Headed down the surface road just off Hwy. 75, we were T-boned by a young guy in his 20’s who somehow didn’t see our van. This caused extensive damage to the passenger side front door and some mild damage to the sliding door.
Miraculously the 2 doors were able to open and close and function. Also, grace to God, no one was hurt. We were able to head all the way to Florida and back for the vacation and take the car in to be repaired upon returning to Franklin, TN. Admittedly it could’ve been way worse. As a client of mine once said “You were about as lucky as you were unlucky”.
Since it was the other driver’s fault 100%, his insurance company was on-the-hook for everything. He had State Farm, which has been great to work with. That, to me, is how customer service should be. They let us pick the place to take our minivan out of ten different shops near us. They also replaced all 3 kids car seats and reimbursed us rapidly. They also let us rent a replacement vehicle, at their cost, from the company that inspired this article. I won’t say the company’s name but it starts with ‘H’, ends in ‘Z’ and OJ Simpson used to shill for them.
Calling the main office to set up the rental went swimmingly and was easy. They said they’d even come and pick me up if I told them what time I was dropping off my car, which is where the adventure starts. Still unsure what day the autobody place would take our van, I informed them I’d let them know when they let me know. They said to call the local pickup location directly to set that up and it would make things go smoother and they gave me the number. This call took place on a Wednesday.
Friday, two days later, I was told to bring my van into the autobody place the upcoming Tuesday at 9:30 am or later. My next call was to the local pickup location and the phone rang-and-rang. It must’ve rung about 10 times. Finally, an automated message says they’re unable to answer the phone and call later. Unbelievably I can’t even leave a message for a callback! Me, being persistent, call back two more times and the same crap happens. Being Mr. Nice Guy, I decide, hey, it’s Friday they must be busy and will try again in a few hours. A few hours later the same, maddening cycle repeats itself. Short of driving there (they’re located on a busy road on a notoriously jammed up all the time), I have no way to reach them directly it would seem.
I had an appointment with a client, so I resolved to call tomorrow. I try again Saturday morning and afternoon and it’s the same BS. At this point I’m just annoyed and call the main number where I at least got a human and was able to reserve the car. They say they can do it but it’s better to get the actual location to ensure they get my pickup on their end. I tell them my experience and they say they’ll try and call too. They put me on hold to try and call them themselves, to no avail. It’s the same insanity when they try.
At this point they input my desire to get picked up Tuesday morning from their end and say I should try and touch base with the local pickup location just to be sure. I tell them it’s not my fault I can’t touch base and to have a manager try and get these nimrods to answer their phone. The representative says she will and I leave it at that for the day, other than trying to call my local pickup location 2 more times and getting nowhere.
Monday comes and I have way too much going on to stop by personally (which in hindsight I wish I’d done). I do attempt to call several more times and something different does happen finally. Instead of it going to their off-putting message, it forwards me to the main corporate office! I confirm that I’m supposed to be picked up the next day at the autobody shop at 9:30 a.m. and it’s indeed in the reservation. So that gives me optimism (because I want to be that way) that I’m set.
The next morning comes and I get to the autobody place about 9:00 a.m. and just for sport, at this point I call the local pickup location. Again, it immediately forwards to the corporate office and talk to an agent there after being on hold for 15 minutes who tells me it’s showing in their reservation that I’m to be picked up at 9:30 and to be patient until then. I tell them I was just trying to talk to the local pickup office and it forwarded to them when I called.
Having planned on reading a book, I proceed to do that while I wait. 9:30 comes-and-goes. 9:45, same, no sign of a pickup. 10, nothing. 10:30 I start calling again as the guys at the autobody shop start asking me if my ride’s coming. It forwards again to the corporate office and after being on hold for 20 minutes I share that no one has come to get me and when I try and call their freaking number it sends me to them. I fancy myself a patient and caring person, but by this time I’m just done.
The rep proceeds to tell me that since this reservation is being paid for by an insurance company, not me, there’s a different department I’m supposed to be dealing with. This is news to me! They then transfer me and the lady listens to my, by now, elaborate story. She’s very disturbed by my tale of woe and tells me she’ll call me back and try to get a manager to get ahold of someone at the local pickup location to come and get me.
At this point it’s almost lunchtime and since there’s one of those fancy gas stations with real food next door I decide to try and at least get some food, as not only is it hot (it’s August in the South), I’m starting to get hangry (hungry-and-angry for the uninformed). While in the store I get some lunch and a drink and have the brainstorm to send a text to the number I’ve been calling and see if that prompts them to answer the phone. So, I shot off the following text: Will you answer your phone please (prayer hands emoji)?
After sending it, I give it a minute and call. A man’s voice answers. I’m almost too stunned to talk. It’s hard to believe that actually worked! I stammer out that I have a reservation and was supposed to be picked up at 9:30 (nearly 2 hours ago) and had no luck getting ahold of him. He weakly says it’s been very busy and at this point I don’t want him to hang up, I just need someone to come and get me from the autobody store. He says that he knows where that is and will have the driver come straight away. Hallelujah! I’m not going to have to call Uber after all and storm in there in a very ‘Un-Nice Guy’ way!
The driver shows up about 20 minutes later and is about as nice a guy as you’d hope for. He’s a senior working this job for some extra money and something to do with his days named Roger. Quickly it’s apparent Roger isn’t in charge of answering the phones over there. He’s a solution in a sea of problems. On our ride to get my rental we talk and I give him a Cliff’s Notes version of the blow-by-blow you may have just read through. He naturally feels sorry for me and is apologetic. I strive to be fair-minded and not be upset at the people who are doing their job well so I just tell him that he’s great and they need more like him. The weirdest, most maddening thing, of the whole ordeal was there was no way for me to leave a message for a callback.
He tells me that he’s not allowed to answer the phone but he hears it ringing all the time when they’re busy and it drives him crazy. We talk and I share what I do and give him my card (because you never know) and tell him how glad I am that he at least was a pleasant part of this entire experience.
The point of telling you all that, I suppose, is so it’s apparent how many times I tried to meet this company half-way. Breaking it down, the corporate office and driver and original reservation-taking team were actually good. But, as the saying goes, you can only be as strong as your weakest link. It wasn’t until my text inexplicably got the local pickup location to answer their phone that I was able to get the problem solved. It’s bananas that there wasn’t a reasonable workaround for one bottleneck (the local pickup location). On the other hand, you had the tremendous experience we enjoyed with State Farm, which was first class all the way. It was 2 completely different ways to handle folks like me and my family, with problems.
What this entire experience did was allow me to reflect on my own standards of service. I’ve been at this for going on eleven years and have to help people with issues when they arise with various insurance companies. Every company out there has issues, believe it or not. I’m like the triage for such problems and why having an agent is helpful (or ought to be). There are things I’ve learned in my experience that my clients wouldn’t have a chance to know. I can save them untold amounts of frustration and wasted time by being their advocate and knowing where to go to fix things. And if I don’t know, I find out. That’s what the commission I earn is for.
Even though I have many clients, every individual one is important. The key to the many is the one. What that means to me is I treat everyone with care and will go to the mat with a company if need be to help any one of them. If I had the opposite attitude, that ‘what difference does one dissatisfied customer make?’ I see in so many companies, it would make me a thief in a sense. The money I get from the companies in commissions to help them would be more-or-less stolen. Furthermore, I take pride in calling my clients back within 24 hours or less, and solving problems or giving them good advice. I’m a huge believer in ‘The Golden Rule’ too.
“I called Randy when he was on vacation and he helped me figure out why my doctor charged my co-pay wrong” – Kathy Haney in Fairview, TN
Okay, okay you caught me bragging on myself a little bit. But that’s what a good agent is supposed to do. I strive to serve everybody like I helped Kathy Haney. Kinda like State Farm was when dealing with them.
Conversely, if the car rental place would’ve just answered my call once when I was trying to arrange a pickup this entire article wouldn’t exist. I’ve realized in 11 years that doing things as they come up, quickly and with a ‘nice’ attitude that even when things go wrong (face it no one’s perfect) the problems are generally way easier to deal with. By being like an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand and hoping it works itself out, you only invite reasonable people to act unreasonably when things go awry. Now, if we could only get government agencies like Medicare itself to read this…😊
As it becomes more-and-more apparent that this new, post-Covid 19 world, isn’t going away anytime soon, as an insurance broker one of the main things my clients are asking is: how do I pick the best Medicare plan for me? Luckily, as their current agent, they already know what I’m all about and they can trust my guidance and advice. If you don’t have an agent and are getting all kinds of mail or don’t trust the ads on TV, know that my advice is free and I go the extra mile for all my clients when they need me.
What if you’re new to Medicare either by age or soon-to-be-retired, so you’re unsure where to start or what to do. Selfishly I’m going to encourage you to reach out to me, Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor, aka Randy W. Hall and tell me your situation. I’m willing to meet you one-on-one (wearing a mask of course), as I’ve always done. However, with seniors being the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, I definitely understand that may be a scary thought. So if you’re wanting to give me a call (615-578-5174) or would like to meet through Zoom or FaceTime, I’m more than happy to assist you with your Medicare options however you feel comfortable or prefer.
My dedication to keeping up on Medicare changes, offering all the major companies and offer an education-based approach to you and have over a decade of experience. My goal is to help you find the best plan for you, always. I also refuse to use pressure in the sales process (I hate high-pressure sales tactics) and am willing to explain things in the easiest way for you to understand.
Just know that if you’re unsure of how to look for Medicare insurance this year, look no further and give me a call. I’ll treat you to a professional, personal and easy-to-understand presentation. That way you can throw out all the junk mail you’ll be getting and not have to talk to someone in another country or different state and deal with someone you can trust. I’m A+ rated on the Better Business Bureau and have hundreds of happy clients already. This new world we find ourselves in now is confusing and hard-to-navigate enough. Let the Nice Guy make sure you get your Medicare Insurance right!
We always were, but it doesn’t make for as snazzy a headline :)! Throughout this pandemic I’ve learned all the in’s-and-outs of doing my presentations over-the-phone, on video and everything-in-between. Thankfully most carriers have updated to the 21st century and are allowing us to enroll people for Medicare plans online. Many already were, but others were slow to the game or made it a pain-in-the-butt. Now, it’s far easier to do business over the computer.
Anyhow, I’m still doing some face-to-face appointments (outdoors with a mask on, so far), but 90% has been remotely. Depending on if you’re looking to lower your Medicare Supplement rate, get the details on 2021 plans, turning 65 and don’t-know-where-to-start, retiring and getting on Medicare for the first time or have a general Medicare question and need some guidance, I, the Nice Guy (aka Randy W. Hall), am here for you. With a mission to serve and educate I’ve helped thousands in TN and KY figure out the best Medicare plan for them, or let them know they already had the best one.
As always, I hate high-pressure sales tactics and will always give you the best guidance I can without being “sales-sy” (my word for an ingenuine creep who’d con his own Mom for a buck). So if you want to hear it straight while being told the pros AND cons of the various Medicare options, give me a call at 615-578-5174. Operators (well, me) are standing by! 🙂
Forgive me if this sounds like common sense, but nobody can have it all, no matter how much money or how many resources you have. There are opportunity costs for everybody. To have one thing, you are giving up many others.
For example, you can’t be a workaholic and expect to be a phenomenal family man or Mom-Of-The-Year. If you wanted to read 100 books this year AND be in the best shape of your life, it might mean you have to not be able to run a brand new, start-up business, which is usually very time intensive.
Every one of us has to pick-and-chose what to focus on and what’s important to us. I’m not saying don’t try to maximize your potential and be the best version of yourself, whatever-that-may-be. The simple, unavoidable fact is we are all limited to the same one body and 24 hours in-a-day. We all must make choices at the expense of other things, like-it-or-not.
How then, does this apply to insurance? And in my client’s case, Medicare insurance specifically? Not long ago I received a call from a lady who said, “I was talking to my sister and she has one of those zero premium deals and that sounds good. I’m paying two hundred bucks a month and it’s knocking me in the creek! (This was her actual phrase, which I thought was great) I also want a plan where I don’t have any co-pays, I can go to any doctor and my drug plan is included. And do they have one where it has extra stuff like gym memberships, dental and vision coverage too?”
Luckily this lady’s example is rare, as in ten years of doing this I’d never had someone sound so entitled and out-of-touch with how insurance works. I asked her if she was on Medicaid and well as Medicare, as I could help her get what she was looking for better if she did. She wasn’t. She had Original Medicare and was paying the $200 bucks for a Medicare Supplement and another $45 for a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
So back to the original point, I explained that there were two basic ways of getting Medicare coverage (to see that broken down click here). There were opportunity costs for either one. In essence, if she wanted the freedom of what she already had, of no-co-pays and the ability to see anybody who’d see Medicare patients she was going to have to pay a premium (literally and figuratively).
If she was looking to not pay a premium, she was going to have to deal with the uncertainty of co-pays and having a network of doctors, which I could see if her doctors were participating in. On the plus side, she’d get a host of extra benefits she wasn’t getting now. But no plan existed that met all her imaginary criteria. After I explained to her the basic differences between the two options, she had more realistic expectations of what to expect and also got to decide which approach would be better for her.
After our discussion she weighed both her options and made an informed decision of what path she thought was better for her. She decided she would get a Medicare Advantage plan and we got her on the best one for her situation. But because she understood everything, she was able to feel good about her choice and have full disclosure of not only what she had, but also what she was giving up. Which made her appreciate what she now had, and I’d like to think, make her realize even with Medicare, we can’t have our proverbial cake and eat-it-too. Just like life 😊.
As you may or may not know (by the endless ads on your TV) the Medicare Annual Election Period started in earnest on October 15th and will continue through December 7th. We here at Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor have been working non-stop to help our current clients and new clients alike find the right plan for them. We’d love to do the same for you! We offer all the major carriers and many of the plans have changed for the better, while some have changed for the worse. We can help you know if you have the best plan for you and Maximize Your Medicare! We never use high-pressure sales and use education to help you make the right call on your coverage. So call now so we can see you while there’s still time!
What If You Knew Then What You Knew Now?
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, when we get caught up in the day-to-day, it can seem like we get stagnant or things can get stale. Also, there’s something called hedonic adaptation* that can skew one’s perception of progress. I get stuck from time-to-time and fail to realize how far I’ve progressed in my life.
Just the other day I found a picture from my 30th birthday. It was a vivid reminder that things have come an awfully long way since that particular time of my life. I’d have to say my 30’s were a time of great upward mobility in virtually every way possible. Sure, I was a Nice Guy when I turned 30 too, but my focus certainly wasn’t helping people nearly as much as trying to live day-to-day.
As I looked at my 30 year-old self, I began to ponder “I wonder what my 44 year-old self would tell that 30 year-old guy?” Then I had the brainstorm to have that fictional conversation for you my dear readers. So here goes nothing:
RWH 30: So, you come to me from the future? Whoa that’s crazy! How do I know it’s actually you, er, I mean, how do I know you’re me?
RWH 44: Remember that fire alarm you accidentally triggered at work a few years ago?
RWH 30: I haven’t told anyone about that! (realizes I’m legit) Okay, I believe you. Why are you coming to me now?
RWH 44: I’m trying to help you know the future is a good thing. You got any questions for me, big guy?
RWH 30: Sure, I look great! How old are you and what are we weighing these days?
RWH 44: I’m 44 now. Yeah, you have some ups-and-downs but we’re hanging in there about 190 these days. What do you weigh, hoss?
RWH 30: Don’t you remember? I guess if I lose a bunch of weight then it doesn’t matter. I’m about 235-240. I’m kinda scared to get on a scale right now. Anna’s got me eating way too many Fourth Meals at Taco Bell! Speaking of Anna, does she get any less crazy? Do we make it?
RWH 44: Sorry, not sorry, you guys don’t make it. You wind up marrying a girl in Tennessee. She’s way better for you, trust me! Also, pro tip, people don’t get less crazy unless they get on meds.
RWH 30: Tennessee! Is that where we live? Dan and I had a fun vacation there a few years ago. I really liked it there.
RWH 44: Yessir. Dan Minard moves here next year and he convinces you to take the leap and move here to Nashville too. Do it! Don’t even hesitate. Best thing you’ll ever do for yourself!
RWH 30: That makes sense, I freaking hate cold weather! So, what about work? I assume I don’t keep working for J. Walter Thompson if I’m not in Detroit…
RWH 44: No, you actually move to Tennessee and get into the Medicare industry and eventually wind up starting your own Medicare agency, Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor. You become self-employed, believe it or not!
RWH 30: (Dumbfounded) Medicare?! Isn’t that insurance for seniors? I don’t know a thing about that. And I work for myself?! How am I doing with that?
RWH 44: Well, you learn Medicare working for Genworth Financial for a few years. After a few years they lay your department off, they get bought by Aetna, and that’s when you strike out on your own. So when Melissa, your boss there, starts giving you grief, don’t take it so hard. Believe it or not, you’ve been helping people pick Medicare plans for ten years! You’ve got hundreds of clients and enjoy it because you help people with something they actually need. It’s not the most glamorous-sounding thing ever, but you do great with it!
RWH 30: So, do we still live in Nashville? Do my wife and I have kids?
RWH 44: You live in a beautiful suburb of Nashville called Franklin! You guys live in a beautiful home you have built with your 3 kids! I joke around and tell people that going from Detroit to Franklin is like going from ‘Boyz In the Hood’ to ‘Leave It to Beaver’!
RWH 30: This sounds awesome! We have 3 kids, eh? Boys, girls? What ages are they?
RWH 44: William is the oldest, he’s 7. Then you have Wiley and he’s 3-and-a-half. And lastly you have Vera, who’s about to be one in November. They’re all excellent kids. You have a lot to look forward to, man.
RWH 30: This is blowing my mind! Just the other day I was feeling down because here I am 30 and I’ve been spinning my wheels forever, it seems. I don’t even think I could afford kids at this point! Dad died last May and that’s been rough for me. Anna’s a great girl, but she’s moody, to say the least. I’m living in a rented house Butter+ owns, staying in the basement with her, with my brother and sister living upstairs. It’s better than nothing, but it’s humbling. And when it comes to money, I’m really struggling. My car payment is a total killer. How they heck do I get that together?
RWH 44: I’m not going to lie, it’s a process, but you actually become pretty good with money. You become a homeowner at 34. Working for yourself you make a great living for yourself while working less hours and no boss besides the man-in-the-mirror. So, buck up, smile, it’s going to be fine. Remember when Mr. McDonald said that the most important decision you’ll ever make is who you marry? Believe him.
RWH 30: Mr. McDonald?!# That reminds me, does Charlie Weis lead Notre Dame to the promised land? They’ve been looking pretty good this year (2005)! He seems like he could be coaching there for a long time!
RWH 44: I don’t want to spoil it for you, but he runs into some hard times. I have two words for a coach to remember: Brian Kelly.
RWH 30: The guy at Central Michigan? The guy who used to coach Grand Valley?!
RWH 44: Yep, that’s the guy to watch.
RWH 30: Weird. Okay, so you’re telling me I’ve got nothing to get down about, it all works out. How do my family and friends handle me leaving Michigan and moving to Tennessee? Michelle and Tim are going to be sad.
RWH 44: Well, first off, you’ve got to live your life for you. Not in a selfish way, just a realistic thing to know. For the most part, your family is sad to see you go, but they understand it. They just want to see you turn it around. Tim and Michelle, sadly, aren’t built for the long-haul. Mike and Kathy^ actually both move to Tennessee at different points, too.
RWH 30: I get what you’re saying about living your life for you, it’s just weird to think about leaving them here. Tim and Michelle are really close! They don’t make it?! That bums me out. Also, my Mom must be going nuts having all her kids move to Tennessee.
RWH 44: I think eventually she’ll move there with Harry. They visit all-the-time to see their grandkids. Maybe 50 year-old us will visit you and fill you in. As for Tim and Michelle, think about your own parents. People change and grow in different directions sometimes. Believe it or not, Tim actually winds up marrying Christine, Amy’s cousin!
RWH 30: Brian Smith’s Amy?! That’s nuts!
RWH 44: Yeah, life is funny like that. Listen, I know you feel lost and uncertain much of the time. Stressed out. Stuck. The main reason I wanted to talk to you is to let you know if you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll grow, change and make a difference, not just in your life, but the effects will ripple out to affect all around you. Like that ‘Butterfly Effect’ movie!
RWH 30: That Ashton Kutcher movie?! Please tell me it’s better than that!
RWH 44: Well the future is 100% better than that movie, it just seemed like a good way to get the point across…
RWH 30: Yeah, I get it. Do Dan and I ever get famous?
RWH 44: Fame is overrated.
RWH 30: So that’s a no (smiling).
RWH 44: You guys do have a good podcast about music called ‘That Dandy Classic Music Hour’ for a few years, but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.
RWH 30: Podcast? What is that?
RWH 44: You’re gonna love them! You won’t be listening to much music, you’re going to be listening to audio programs through your I-Phone. In fact, you know how you spend a bunch of money on music now?
RWH 30: Yeah, but I’m getting better about that…
RWH 44: In 2019 music is practically free and easy to get. Oh, and wait until you find YouTube. Man, you’ve got to get here! It’s sweet!
RWH 30: Sounds pretty sweet! The way you’re talking to me, am I rich or something?
RWH 44: In more ways than you know. I gotta go, but just remember to enjoy the ride and don’t be so worried.
At that point, like a Ghost of Christmas Future, I’d take leave and let 30 year-old Randy feel good for a change, knowing his future is much better than he can contemplate in-the-moment. In summation, the moral of the story is, don’t confuse boredom with dissatisfaction. Don’t try to get happier than happy. If you’re out there making gradual improvements and making consistently good decisions the future will be your friend. And, like I said to 30 year-old me, be sure to enjoy the ride!
*Hedonic adaptation is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
+Butter is the nickname for my former landlord John.
#Mr. McDonald was a guy I caddied for and mentored me in my teen years who led me to become a huge Notre Dame football fan.
^Mike and Kathy are my brother and sister, respectively.
I admit it: I’m human. Far from perfect. But I do pride myself on being a good person to the extent it’s part of my professional identity as Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor. At this point in my career I’ve met with thousands of Medicare beneficiaries. My experiences have run the gamut from meeting some of the best, most genuine people around to having people rudely chase me off after having driven many miles to see them.
Throughout the years I’ve had a few interactions that really got me angry. Very few times did I ever show that to the person I was trying to help. But one time, in particular, I really screwed up and boiled over. The good news is I learned from doing that to not let it bother me where it messes up my day and it gives any potential client a negative experience with me.
The story begins at a Panera Bread. One of my favorite clients, Arlene*, had referred her brother Sean* and her sister in law, Pam*, to me. I met Sean and Pam at the restaurant and we sat down for our meeting. We talked like old friends for about half-an-hour and got to know each other. However, Sean, hadn’t activated his Medicare Part B yet, so I volunteered to do that there since I knew how to do it and save him the time and aggravation of having to deal with Social Security directly (which I could do back then). Since I had my tablet, we went online and I walked through signing him up and it took about 45 minutes to do that.
Having accomplished that painful, time-consuming task we got to talking about Medicare options and what they were. Pam had several health problems already and was looking at some upcoming surgeries potentially, so I recommended a Medigap plan, which they both signed up for (Sean wanted the same thing as his wife). All told we were at Panera for 2 ½ hours on a Friday night but we got it all handled and, in my view, had a pretty decent time doing so. We had a good rapport and never a lull in the conversation. I’ve had at least a dozen appointments like this where a couple and me just had a grand time and it didn’t feel like customer-salesperson. It felt like doing business with a friend and this was just how this had gone. It was about as pleasant as dealing with health insurance could be.
Fast forward about two weeks later and I get a call from Sean saying he had decided to go with a different Medicare Supplement company and to cancel out the applications we had submitted for he and Pam. I was so stunned I was dumbfounded and immediately outraged. What?! The competing Medicare Supplement company had lower rates by a dollar or two, but being a veteran of the industry, I knew they were infamous for coming out with what agents call ‘teaser, low-ball’ rates and then within two or 3 years having the rates double in some cases. I’d been burned by this company as an agent numerous times and avoided using them like the plague.
Telling Sean why I hadn’t presented this company to him, he didn’t seem affected by my reasoning. I told him what he needed to do was call this other agent back and tell him what he told me, he didn’t want that insurance! And if he really wanted it, despite their reputation, I could sell it to him if he really was hung up on saving a few bucks for the short term. He proceeded to say “but I promised him we’d take it already”. This sent me over-the-edge as I blurted “You promised me too! And I actually did you a huge service, helping you sign up for Part B of Medicare! This guy doesn’t care anything about you! If he did, he wouldn’t have sold you that terrible company!” I must’ve short-circuited poor Sean who thought I’d be an easier guy to say no to who abruptly got off the phone after I’d given him a piece-of-my-mind.
And usually I’d handle a situation like this with far more grace, but I felt taken advantage of and felt like our good time together was all for naught. At this point this had never happened to me where someone I had a great appointment with ended up not using my services.
Now, instead of being a pleasant memory and potentially years of being a good relationship, it was a source of pain. I’d gone out-of-my-way to see them late on a Friday night and taken time away from me and my family to help them. For what? To have some two-bit, hustler of an agent undo it to save a few bucks?! And why even talk to anybody else after we’d met? Didn’t this guy get I was trying to do my absolute best for him and his wife, and make his sister, Arlene, feel good about referring them to me? Still, despite that, I was way wrong in going off like I did.
First of all, it doesn’t align with my values of trying to help each and every person like they’re family and friends. Second, if I’d have handled it better Arlene would’ve probably told him what an idiot he was for not taking my advice and making her look bad even. Now I was just some jerk who cried like a baby when I didn’t get his way. I helped justify his decision to not use me as an agent with my misbehavior and closed the door on him coming back later and saying he should’ve used me all along (which has happened a number of times) because the other agent didn’t do right by them.
Secondly, I knew what my intentions were and I could’ve explained them calmly and maybe gotten him to see that too. By involving my ego and sense-of-righteousness to angrily defend myself, I put him in a position of feeling berated and insulted. I knew better than to let something so petty disrupt my mindset. What’s the big deal? If he doesn’t become my client is it going to affect my bottom line? Not really.
The truth is my ego was wounded and I handled it poorly. It felt personal and I made it personal in a negative way. Even if I was technically or morally in-the-right given what had previously transpired, I was better than that. Nobody deserves to be gone-off-on in such a manner and I learned that lesson.
The moral of the story is in-the-long-run I resolved to be a kinder, gentler agent who wanted to help people for the right reasons from then on. We all make mistakes. It’s our job to learn the lessons from them and use it going forward. After all, why deal with a jerk, when you can deal with a Nice Guy?!
*-names changed to protect their true identity
That’s all we do here! My name is Randy W. Hall and professionally I’m known as “Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor”. First off, let me share with you I hate traditional sales methods and tactics. I’ve learned I hate cold-calling folks like you and like it even less when someone cold-calls me. And if someone tries to pressure me into buying? I want to walk away out of spite when a salesperson tries that on me! That’s why I’m writing you today. I want to invite you to seek out the information that could help you Maximize Your Medicare! All with the promise of helping you first and never pressuring you to buy something.
I’m a licensed broker in Tennessee and am authorized-to-offer most major carriers in the Medicare industry that operate in our state. Why do business with a broker? First off it means I’ll help you figure out which plan or programs are best-suited for you individually. You’d be surprised how many people assume that just because a plan is great for their family member or friend, that it’s the best one for them. While it very well may be a great plan for them, there’s an even better chance something else out there would suit them more. And since I’m a representative for most everyone I’m not limited to showing you just whomever I happen to work for (such as if you called a carrier directly). You can get a 360-degree look at what is available to you and the different costs and benefit packages there are out there.
Best of all, my sole mission is explaining things to you in a way that’s easy-to-follow and not confusing. Too often things like “Medicare & You” are written in way that are hard-to-follow or filled with confusing terms that assume a level of understanding the average person doesn’t have. Also, we don’t believe in high-pressure sales. We call ourselves ‘Advisors’ because we see ourselves as here to give information and guidance. In my ten years of being an independent agent I’ve helped thousands of folks navigate the Medicare Maze and keep up with my clients on an annual basis when plans change as well. Many of clients have become like friends to me over the years.
Right now, you may be overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with all the mail and information you’ve been sent. Be it Medicare supplements or Advantage plans or Part D questions I specialize in all of it. We don’t charge for any of our time. In fact, the way we get compensated is by enrolling you in a plan and the companies themselves pay us. Conveniently they all pay me the same so I’m not biased by which company pays me what, simply which plan works best for you! And you pay the same price for your insurance whether you have my help or not. The difference is if you decide to use me as your agent, I can be your advocate and help you with any situation that may arise once you’re on your plan!
When people are weighing their Medicare options the most fundamental thing we discuss is the difference between Original Medicare Supplement with a Medicare Supplement (aka ‘Medigap’) and Medicare Advantage plans. I’d be willing to lay down a bet of five dollars that the majority of folks who have a Medicare Advantage plan believe they have a Supplement to Medicare. A Medicare Advantage plan is not the same as buying a Medicare Supplement to fill-in the gaps of Original Medicare. The reason, I think, is because Medicare themselves have complicated the issue by having the word ‘Medicare’ be used in describing their insurance plan. If they called it something without the word ‘Medicare’ it would probably help when I explain the difference between the two as well. But we live in the real world so we’ll deal with the reality of the situation.
The way I get most to understand the difference is by focusing on who the ‘Primary’ insurance is through. Most of us, by having had insurance the majority of our working lives, are familiar with the concept of having a primary provider. When I worked for an advertising company my ‘primary’ insurance was through Blue Cross Blue Shield of MI. I usually had to meet a deductible for the year, and then BCBS of MI would pick up 80% and I had to pay 20%. So, in this instance, BCBS of MI was primary and I was secondary once the deductible was met. Most of us who work or got our insurance through a spouse or parent are familiar with this set-up.
So back to Medicare. In the case of Original Medicare being primary, you have the chance to buy what’s called a Medicare Supplement (aka ‘Medigap’) to fill in the gaps of Medicare. So, if you have a Med Supp, your provider, a doctor or hospital, will bill Medicare first and then send the remainder to your supplement provider. And here’s something that’s important, it makes virtually no difference which company you have, all that matters is that Original Medicare is accepted by the provider. If the provider accepts Original Medicare, and they pay the claim, then whomever you have your Med Supp through, will pay their share automatically. This is because the claims payment system is electronic and all Supplement carriers use it. This also means you don’t have to concern yourself with whether your provider accepts your Medicare Supplement company. By law, each company pays according to which letter plan you have. There are no networks. This means a plan F or G or N (the most popular type of Med Supp plans) is exactly the same in what benefits it covers. The only difference is the premium you pay can vary wildly from company-to-company. That’s why we offer so many different Medicare Supplement carriers. Since all Medigap rates go-up over time we stay contracted with the companies that are the most competitive.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you have Original Medicare with a Med Supp, you will have to buy what’s called a stand-alone Part D plan, which has an additional premium, if you want prescription drug coverage. We also offer a variety of different stand-alone Part D options to go with your Med Supp. However, as a courtesy to our Med Supp clients, we will do a Drug Plan search annually for free if you’d like. If the Part D plan that’s best for you happens to be one we sell we will enroll you personally. If it’s not one we are authorized-to-offer we can tell you the company which is best and you can contact them directly, or we’ll sign you up with the understanding we aren’t the agent-of-record and can’t work with them on your behalf if there’s any issues that arise.
In the case of Medicare Advantage (aka Medicare Part C), what happens is Original Medicare is no longer your primary insurance. Instead you’ve selected a private company to administer all of your Medicare benefits for certain co-pays, and unlike Original Medicare, they’re able to add additional benefits that Medicare can’t. Some examples include:
-Over-the-counter items such as vitamins, medical items that we spend our own money on, medical equipment
– Post-hospitalization meals
– Emergency response systems
– Prescription drug coverage
-Gym memberships or at-home fitness packages
So what, in effect, happens is you pick a company (Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, et al) and Medicare pays them so much per month to cover all of this for you. Often at a zero premium or low-monthly premium over-and-above what you pay Medicare for Part B coverage ($135.50 monthly for most people).
The thing to keep in mind is these are very similar to insurance most of us have had prior to being eligible for Medicare. They are HMO’s and PPO’s, which are network-based. This means, prior to enrolling, you need to be careful to make sure your doctors accept the plan you choose if that’s something that’s important to you. One thing we do at Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisors is confirm your doctors are in-network before we enroll you into a Medicare Advantage (aka Part C) plan.
They also have co-pays (or cost-sharing) that are equal to or, in most cases, superior to having Original Medicare without a Med Supp. For example, you’d pay a co-pay of $10 to see your primary-care doctor and $40 to see a Specialist. Depending on the Medicare Advantage plan you pay a co-pay for every Medicare-service covered.
The other thing we do is look up your prescription drugs (if you take any) to see how they’re covered by each company. The majority of Advantage plans include Part D prescription drug coverage included in the plan itself for no additional premium.
On Medicare Advantage in an emergency or urgent care situation you’re covered the same way you would be if you were in-network. However, if you go to a provider that’s out-of-network and it doesn’t fall under an emergency or urgent situation, there’s a great chance you’d pay for the entirety of the cost in an HMO. In the case of a PPO you’d likely pay a higher cost-share (co-pay) than seeing someone in-network.
One key feature to keep in mind is all Medicare Advantage plans have out-of-pocket maximums ($6700 or less per year) so if you had a rough year health-wise there’s a limit to what you’d spend out-of-pocket. Also the plans can improve or weaken their benefits every year, which is why we call our clients every October to update them on their particular plan.
To help compare the 2 here are some at-a-glance pros & cons of each
Original Medicare with a Med Supp (aka ‘Medigap’)
- No networks – Rates increase over-time
- Cost-certainty (you pay premium and go on) – Have to buy stand-alone Part D
- Low-risk – No additional benefits beyond Medicare
- Good across the U.S. – Pay premiums whether you use it or not
Medicare Advantage (aka ‘Part C’)
- Often have zero or low premiums – Network-based (HMO or PPO’s)
- Coordinate care better than Original Medicare – Costs vary by health (higher risk)
- Prescription drug plan included w. no premium – Plan has to approve certain procedures
- Can save significant money – Plans vary by county
- Usually include additional benefits (see above)
- No deductible to meet on most plans