It’s that time of the year again—open enrollment. The 2016 individual open enrollment period begins November 1 and ends January 31, which means that brokers who specialize in individual coverage will be very busy for the next three months. To help make sure this is a successful selling season for you, we thought we’d share a few quick thoughts.
#1. Budget some time for your existing clients
This year, you'll need to spend more time than usual with your existing clients-the ones you signed up over the last couple of years. Why? Because four things are happening that could affect their current plan and coverage options:
- Prices are going up, and in some markets quite significantly. This means that your clients may want to shop around rather than renewing as is.
- Networks are shrinking. A number of markets carriers are ditching their PPO plans completely, at least for Marketplace coverage, and replacing them with narrow network HMO plans. While this helps keep costs under control, it also disrupts coverage for people with ongoing conditions who may need a particular doctor.
- Carriers are changing. Non-profit co-ops and carriers are pulling out of some markets, while other carriers are entering new markets. And on top of that carriers are discontinuing certain plan selections. As the available options change, people will want to see if there's a better fit.
- Some people are losing eligibility for the tax credits. This can happen for a number of reasons such as a change in income, an inability to confirm residency status, or failure to file a tax return for 2014.
They say that it's easier to retain a current client than to gain a new one, but this year may be the exception to that rule. Still, you'll want to do everything you can to keep your current business, and that will take some planning and diligence on your end.
#2. Remember the three big selling points
When the Supreme Court issued its decision in the King v. Burwell case, Justice Roberts discussed the three key components of health care reform: 1) guaranteed issue with community rating; 2) an individual shared responsibility requirement; and 3) advance premium tax credits. If you remove any of these pieces, Justice Roberts argued, the other two don’t work nearly as well, if at all. For instance, you can’t require people with medical conditions to buy coverage unless the insurance company is required to take them. At the same time, you can’t require carriers to accept sick enrollees unless healthy individuals are required to buy coverage as well. And in order to buy that coverage, some people will need financial assistance.
When visiting with prospective clients, keep these key provisions in mind because they’re also the three biggest selling points. Some people need coverage because they have a pre-existing condition; now they can buy it. Some people want coverage but they can’t afford it; the tax credits might make it possible. And some people don’t prioritize health insurance, but the increasing individual mandate penalties might change their mind. Obviously, different prospects will require a different sales pitch, but each one of these is a good reason to buy health insurance.
#3. Be creative in finding leads
Finally, if you want to sell a lot of business, you’ve got to talk to a lot of people. The trick is to ask yourself who needs insurance and probably doesn’t have a broker to advise them. When you do, you might be surprised at some of the answers you come up with.
For instance, if you also sell employer-sponsored coverage, you might find that you have lots of prospects within the employer groups you already work with, including new hires who are still in their waiting period, part-timers who are ineligible for the group plan, and dependents whose coverage is not subsidized by the employer. A lot of these folks don’t have health insurance, and because of your relationship with the employer, it might be fairly easy to get in touch with them.
If you don’t sell group health insurance, no problem. In the same way that you may specialize in individual products, other brokers specialize in group products and don’t sell individual at all. Why not team up with them? It can be a great value-add for the group, the group broker can look like a hero, and you can get a lot leads.
Agents who specialize in auto and homeowner’s insurance can also be great referral sources. You can help them by reaching out to their clients to remind them that it’s the open enrollment period and that this is the time of the year they can sign up for or make changes to their health insurance.
You probably have some other ideas, but the point is that insurance is a numbers game—the more people you talk to, the more policies you’ll sell. So if you can figure out how to get the message out to people that you already have at least a loose relationship with, your efforts will certainly be rewarded.
Bonus Tip: Sell other stuff and schedule follow-up visits
One final tip: every person you talk with is a prospect. Yes, the reason you’re contacting them is because this is the open enrollment period for individual health insurance, but once you’re talking with them—whether they need health insurance or not—you can ask them about their other needs. Perhaps you can sell them an accident plan, a cancer plan, or a life insurance policy, or you might uncover some other need. If they don’t have time to talk with you about those needs right now, no problem; just schedule a follow-up call with them.
As a broker, no matter what you sell, you need to find reasons to talk with qualified prospects. Over the next three months, health insurance will give you a pretty good reason.