We’re months from October 15, the first day you can enroll clients in a 2019 Medicare Advantage plan. What should you do to prepare? Start with the Agent Survival Guide’s AEP Checklist.

  • Pick your portfolio’s plans
  • Complete contracting
  • Finish Medicare training
  • Complete online product certification
  • Fulfill face-to-face training if required

Let’s take a look at how you can prepare your portfolio and make sure you’re up to date on your AHIP training certification.

Listen to this article:

Select Your Plans

Now is the best time to look over your current appointments and consider what’s worked for your clients and what hasn’t.

Start by asking, “Do I have the brand plan that clients are going to ask for?” People recognize popular names, and attach inherent value to those products. Studies show customers decide on a plan more quickly when the options they’re presented with include a familiar brand, compared to when all their options are unfamiliar.

The big players might not offer the best products for your clients, but it’s valuable to associate your business with strong brands.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, do you offer the plan you feel is the best choice? Never forget, you’re the expert here. Your clients look to you as their trusted advisor. Remember, popular, high-enrollment plans aren’t always the greatest fit, and plans can change from one year to the next.

Do you offer the plan you feel is the best choice? Never forget, you’re the expert here.

Often, a local plan might offer a better network or more suitable benefits for your client. If you have a client who’s used the same hospital for years, they’ll probably want a plan with that hospital in its network. If there’s a new plan in your market for 2019, it’s a good idea to get familiar with it.

Complete Contracting

Think about times when you failed to make a sale because you weren’t appointed with a specific carrier or product. The next few months are also a good time to consider what ancillary products you can offer to make a meeting the most beneficial for you and your client.

Why’s it so important to do this now? It’s pretty hard to add a contract at the last minute. On average, it takes the carrier about seven to 10 business days to process contracting and background checks. As we get closer to AEP, that contracting turnaround time can take as long as four to six weeks, and that’s before factoring in product certifications! The earlier you get started, the better.

Do Your Medicare & FWA Training

In order to sell Medicare Advantage plans, you’re required to complete Medicare and Fraud, Waste, and Abuse (FWA) training. Two of the most popular methods of attaining these certifications are to complete AHIP training or Gorman Health Group courses.

Some carriers mandate a specific training platform. Make sure you check the carrier’s certification requirements to see if they accept AHIP certification. Some carriers use Gorman for their certification platform but will allow you to upload your AHIP scores, others may require you to take the Gorman Core Medicare Compliance and FWA training.

In 2018, the cost of AHIP training is $175, but some carriers may offer AHIP discounts or reimbursements when you use their broker portal. At Ritter, we work to keep our carrier pages up to date with these offers and certification instructions.

Pro tip for AHIP exams: Have a comfy seat and strong Wi-Fi. The test must be taken in one sitting. Once launched, your score is counted no matter what.

Pro tip for AHIP exams: Have a comfy seat and strong Wi-Fi.

Complete Certifications

You’ve done your research, picked the most appealing products in your market, and completed your 2019 Medicare compliance training exams. Check those off the checklist, and there are just a few steps left!

In addition to your general Medicare training, each carrier requires certifications to sell their Medicare products. On Ritter’s Certification Center, we provide links to information on certification, commissions, supplies, and how to submit applications. Prepping for every carrier’s certification can be time-consuming, so we do our best to put it all in one place for you.

When it’s time to take your online certification, we suggest removing all distractions. Carrier certification can be a hefty task. That’s why we recommend getting it done and out of the way as early as possible.

Give yourself at least two hours for certification trainings. If you have three contracts — perhaps two of the big players and the most competitive local product — that could mean an entire workday of certification exams.

If you can turn off your email and phone, you’ll put yourself in the best position to succeed. Work in an office? Try closing the door. If you work from home with kids around, send them to a sitter for the afternoon.

Why do we suggest such drastic measures? Because carrier certifications are important!

We recommend getting carrier certifications done as early as possible.

Most carriers operate by a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy. They’ll only give you three attempts to pass their certification exam and usually require a score of 90 percent or higher. If you fail a carrier’s exam three times, you’ll be locked out from marketing their products for the entire plan year.

Don’t be discouraged if you fail two times in a row. Keep in mind how the test questions are phrased and use some time to review your study materials. Take a break and walk away from it before taking another swing.

Fulfill Any Face-to-Face Training Requirements

And finally, some carriers may require face-to-face training. When certification information becomes available in the coming weeks, we’ll work to keep you informed of each carrier’s requirements. Ritter’s events calendar will help you find face-to-face trainings available near you.

Now You’re Set

Don’t let Medicare Advantage season sneak up on you. There’s plenty of time to prepare your portfolio in the next few months, and we’ll let you know about every strong product in your market.

Run down this checklist, making sure to take care of your Medicare certifications early. And don’t forget to follow up with carrier certifications for all of the products in your rebuilt portfolio. Before you know it, you’ll put certifications behind you and have plenty of time to check in with your clients and polish your sales presentations. Consider yourself prepared for AEP.

● ● ●

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in May 2016. It has been updated to include information more relevant to the 2019 Annual Enrollment Period.