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How to Research and Find a Local Medicare Agent

The choices you make when entering the federal Medicare program are not ones you should take lightly. They will have a significant impact on your healthcare coverage and your out-of-pocket medical costs. Choosing the wrong plan could put you on a path toward a financial crisis. The good news is that there are plenty of helpful Medicare advisors all over the country that can help you make good, informed decisions.

So, how do you find the right local Medicare agent? There are six things to look for when starting your search. (Spoiler alert - we check all these boxes!)

1. Make Sure They’re Licensed

There are people all over the internet that are more than willing to give you advice on just about anything, including Medicare. But if that person is not a licensed health and life insurance agent, take what they say with a grain of salt (or a whole salt shaker). 

To be a licensed Medicare advisor, a person must pass an exam in every state they wish to sell in. After that, they must complete Medicare training and certification through America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) each year. You can ask if they have this training by looking for their certification. In addition, the individual carriers they are contracted with also require their own training and certification. If a person isn’t a licensed agent, they won’t have the extensive knowledge that all this training requires.

2. Make Sure They’re Experienced

There’s nothing wrong with a new Medicare advisor, but we would recommend using one only if that advisor is working with a more experienced team. Medicare brokers often have more than just one agent. More experienced agents can offer helpful guidance and solutions to newer agents.

An experienced agent will be more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of Medicare, as well as the specific plans. As you may know by now, Medicare is not an easy thing to understand. Even agents who have been in the field for several years can find themselves in unique situations. Remember, Medicare isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan. Make sure your agent knows their stuff!

3. Make Sure They’re Specialized

You’ll find that many financial planners also offer Medicare services. They’re trying to be helpful to their clients, many of whom are older and entering Medicare. While this sounds good in theory, someone who does not specialize in Medicare will likely not be up-to-date on all the rules, regulations, and plan offerings.

Medicare is constantly changing. New plans enter the market every year, while old ones get phased out. Current plans may change their benefits, coverage, and premiums. It’s a lot to keep up with. Having an advisor that specializes in Medicare will ensure you’re getting the most accurate information when you need it.

4. Make Sure They’re Independent

There are two types of licensed Medicare advisors: independent and captive. Captive agents represent just one insurance company. They are often well-informed but can only speak to the plans their company provides. They will not be able to compare their plan’s benefits or premiums to others on the market.

Independent agents, on the other hand, are often contracted with many different insurance companies. Even small agencies usually contract with 20 or more carriers. This allows those agents to compare plans and prices across many companies to find the one that fits your unique needs. They do not have a loyalty to one company - only to you.

5. Make Sure They’re Unbiased

Does your agent present all options, or do they seem to “push” one over another? They should discuss both Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage plans, not just one. Especially when first meeting them, they should be giving you an overview of how the Medicare program works and what all your options are.

Medicare advisors are meant to help guide you when making a decision. They should not be making that decision for you. If your agent isn’t discussing every option, you may ask yourself if there is a reason for that. 

Next, you'll want to find an agent who is a good fit for you personality-wise. You should feel comfortable asking questions and raising concerns. If you don't feel comfortable with your agent, keep looking.

6. Make Sure They’re Local

A local Medicare advisor will know more about the healthcare providers and facilities in your area. This is especially important when discussing Medicare Advantage plans, which rely heavily on provider networks. If the agent doesn’t know which providers are contracted in your area, you may end up with a plan that is difficult to use in your area.

When looking for a Medicare agent, be sure to keep these six tips in mind. Don't settle for anything less than the perfect Medicare agent for you. You deserve the best possible help when it comes to making such an important decision. Ready to speak with someone who checks all six boxes? You can find a qualified local Medicare agent by clicking the button below.

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