Is It Hard to Sell Medicare Supplements?
May 26, 2020

When you're looking to get into Medicare sales, a question may linger in the back of your mind: is it hard to sell Medicare products?

If you're in an entirely different industry, there's definitely a learning curve – after all, Medicare is pretty confusing. I've been reading and writing about Medicare topics for years, and I still get tangled up in Guaranteed Issue and Open Enrollment. That's why so many older adults turn to agents for help.

If you sell other types of insurance, like P&C, it's a much smoother transition. You can take a lot of the skills you already have and apply them to selling products in the senior space, like Medicare Supplements and fixed annuities.

Sometimes, a question like this is best answered by successful agents that've been doing this for many years – even decades.

We spoke to 6 agents in the senior market and asked them: is it hard to sell Medicare Supplements? (Spoiler alert – the overwhelming answer was no.)

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1. Kelly Wheeler, independent agent for 14 years

Quick summary: "When you're first starting, it should be easy, because everyone on Medicare needs one."

KellyIISNo, it's not hard to sell Medicare Supplements. When you're first starting, it should be easy, because everyone on Medicare needs one. It's just an insurance product. You're not a member – you're a policyholder, and that means a lot to people.

You have to know what your client's expectations are. For instance, I spoke to a guy last week – he wanted to spend as little money as possible every month. So, I quoted a Plan N, but he ended up wanting a Medicare Advantage plan.

So know your client's expectations.

Second, what's your ultimate goal? My ultimate goal is to sell a Med Supp, and if that's not what they want based on their budget, then I'll go to an MA plan.

But I think a Med Supp is easy to market, because there's no cap on your healthcare services. There's no networks... people like that. It's about freedom of choice – you can choose your providers. People are pleasantly surprised with a supplement.

I've been doing this a long time, and I can't deny that almost all the business I've written lately has been from referrals. You just build your book of business.

Quick Tips on Marketing

I'd recommend using carrier toolkits, T65 lists, ask for referrals, and give great service.

  • UnitedHealthcare and Anthem have general toolkits – those are great tools. With UnitedHealthcare, you pay for the postcards, and you can put your picture on the card.
  • I recommend T65 lists. We've also had luck with random lists that are 65-73 years old and have gotten names from that. If they're not on the DNC list, we can call and market Med Supps that way.
  • When you do make a sale, you have to ask for at least two referrals.
  • Give great service! When people call and have an issue, you have to answer the phone. You have to give them guidance. Answer your phone!

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2. Marc Nyman, independent agent for 40+ years

Quick summary: "No, it's not hard. You just have to be a doer – get out and start talking to people!"

nyman-marcNo! No, it's not hard. You just have to have a place to go and people to see. Just get in front of the right prospects. But no, it's not hard.

When I first started, I was a seasoned pro when it came to knocking doors and meeting strangers out in public. Most problems sales people have is a lack of places to go.

You have to get out and prospect to find those people that are interested in doing business with you. Remember that the worst thing that can happen is they say no.

Door knocking is especially difficult during this pandemic, so that's a unique hurdle right now. But in general, in the 40+ years I've done this, I've never had a gun pointed on me or anything like that. You just have to go out and eliminate the hurdles.

Most hurdles are created by the individual, in my opinion. You just have to be a doer – get out and start talking to people!

3.  Roger Garrett, independent agent for 42 years

Quick summary: "It's not hard, because people are looking for somebody to guide them through the Medicare maze. Once you've developed centers of influence, people send you clients. It can't be any easier."

roger garrettNo, it's not hard at all. I personally do not find it hard to sell Medicare Supplements. People who are new to Medicare are confused and are looking for competent guidance for solutions to their Medicare needs.

Unlike many other types of insurance products, where we may have to help create the need or convince someone they have a need, with Medicare – in my experience – the consumer already knows they have the need.

People are eager to have competent answers and guidance, and they're definitely motivated buyers looking for somebody that can guide them through that maze.

Develop a Center of Influence to Generate a Steady Stream of Referrals

My recommendation to new agents is to try to build up referral sources.

The reality is people aging into Medicare are receiving a nonstop barrage of items in the mail and phone calls... everyone in the world knows they're turning 65, so it's difficult for you as an unknown agent to stand out among the crowd.

This is easier said than done, but the key for me is to be that recognized resource so that their CPA, financial advisor, or P&C agent thinks of me as the source of information – they send those people to me. That's the way my practice works.

The bulk of my relationships have been natural developments with other advisors from over 42 years of being in the insurance business.

If there's a magic answer, it's to develop centers of influence. You want people to perceive you as a Medicare source. You can do that in a variety of ways. Some of that may be to door knock, make cold calls, or send letters to people that are influential. Be a speaker at rotary clubs or churches – do free informational talks to get yourself out there.

I have huge success with CPAs and wealth advisors. People talk to them about retirement and what they should do next.

I regularly share with my new and existing Medicare clients that their referrals are my best source of advertising, and that I will appreciate them sharing my name.

It can't be any easier. It's just a matter of me educating them on what their choices are. And most choose Original Medicare with a supplement.

Med Supps vs. Med Advantage

I try to communicate to people that it's not a right or wrong choice with MA vs. Med Supps. Everyone has their own opinion. What's right for one person may not be right for another. They are different animals.

Far too many people have made a decision to buy an MA plan without detailed information, and they typically are drawn to the $0 premium, access to SilverSneakers, or some other ancillary piece to that whole picture. Decisions like that are very uninformed.

When I'm working with someone, I try to give them an extensive description of both. I include examples of the differences in benefits or exposure for claims such as in-patient hospitalization, chemotherapy, and skilled nursing care.

They're mutually exclusive choices. At the end of the day, 75-80% of my clients are on Original Medicare with a Supplement.

Unlike other products, people are motivated to get help with Medicare. You need to be a resource, and it's much easier when they've been referred to me by a trusted advisor, family member, or friend. It's just a slam dunk because someone has told them to reach out to me for their Medicare needs. It really can't get any easier than that.

4. Henry Hina, senior market agent for 11 years

Quick summary: "I don't consider it a hard sell. Most people I sit with come to us for help. One challenge I face is those dang Medicare Advantage commercials!"

Henry-HinaI have the benefit of being a part of an agency, so I don't have to do cold calling. Most of my business comes from the agency's advertising. A large amount is also referrals. But no, I don't consider it a hard sell. Most people I sit with come to us for help. 

Not everyone I meet with buys, of course. But no – I try to instill in the client that it's a good thing to buy. It's a good product.

I'm a big defender of Original Medicare – it's a wonderful program. It's not concerned with profit. They're not in it to make money.

No one forces Medicare Advantage plan companies to enter the market – they're in it to make money. There are subtle differences there. I've had clients with MA have fights with carriers over services the doctor wanted them to have.

With Medicare, they pay and the supplement pays. We try to show that there's no network, and most of the time, you walk away not owing anything. It's not a hard sale.

Dealing With Medicare Advantage Ads

I think my biggest irritation in selling Medicare products are those dang MA commercials that are all over television. In fact, I've made it part of my process. I make fun of the commercials.

Zero this zero that... I don't mind MA plans advertising, but I do resent the way they are advertised and promoted. I think they're fraudulent commercials. They're staged so it sounds like you can get a $0 premium plan and never owe a dime. That's just not true.

Somehow, these commercials are allowed to promote that. They promote all the extras and good things, but none of the bad side. We've had clients direct quote those commercials saying things like, "I want the benefits I'm entitled to."

Education is a big part of this. I will enroll a person in an MA plan if that's what they want. Most people that buy MA plans are aware of the risk. They're gambling and are willing to have an occasional bad year. I'm fine with that. But I think so many people are lured to those plans by those commercials, which I think are almost criminal.

5. Brittany Caviness, independent agent for 6 years

Quick summary: "I'd say no. And with advances in technology, it's getting way easier."

cavinessI'd say no – it's not hard to sell Medicare Supplements. You get back what you put in. The hours and effort you put in is what you get back in results. 

Selling supplements is actually getting WAY easier. They came out with the e-apps a few years ago now, which makes it a million times easier.

We have a handful of companies that have the on-the-spot approval, which means I can write one company, and if they get declined, I can go to another carrier and get them approved before I leave that appointment.

I know before I leave that my client is approved, and I can cancel their other company before I leave. Everything is done in that appointment! I don't have to go back to that client until the following year.

Before, I'd write the app, fax it in, go back in a few days to do the underwriting phone call to see if they were even approved, then write another one, fax that in... it was a lot of work to get one client approved.

With companies like GSL, Capitol Life, and Pan American, I can write 6 apps in a day instead of 10 in a week. If a company doesn't have the e-app with instant decision, I don't write it.

6. Michael Sams, senior market agent for 15 years

Quick summary: "I think it can be difficult if you don't take the lead role and simplify things."

sams-michaelMedicare is an overwhelming subject. There are Plans A-N, and all of them are different. There is just so much confusion and questions that come with this... the agent really has to have a strategic approach to rolling out the communication and education to the client.

So I think it can be difficult if you don't take the lead role and simplify things.

I go through the Client Needs Assessment. I have a specific order to things that makes it all simple and clean.

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If you allow the client to just sit down and ask a bunch of questions, you can be all over the map and do more harm than good. It confuses them even more.

It's the agent's responsibility to put things in a certain order so that the pieces of the puzzle come together.

But yes, it can be difficult to do Med Supps. There are over 30 companies offering a variety of plans... what's the difference in the price, and why is there a difference in the price? Those are the questions you have to learn to answer in a clear and simple way.

Make Selling Medicare Supplements Easier

Our marketing team has developed a variety of resources for Medicare Supplement agents. Take advantage of those to make Med Supp sales even easier!

  • Cash Bonus Tip Sheet: get a quick snapshot of what cash bonuses each Med Supp company is currently offering.
  • Household Discount Cheat Sheet: see if your clients qualify for Medigap HHDs in a snap (every carrier is different it seems!).
  • Signature Options Spreadsheet: quickly see the signature options for different Med Supp carriers – very handy for remote sales.
  • Rate Changes: stay on top of the latest rate changes from our suite of Medicare Supplement carriers.

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