Choosing a health insurance agent is a critical part of buying a health insurance policy, primarily because it is their advice that will influence your decision the most. During your search you will come across several different types of agents, some of them will be good and some, not so good. Some will be independent agents (offer more than one health insurance company) and others will be captive (only offer one health insurance company). This is not meant to imply that a captive agent is bad. It is just that they are only allowed to offer you a particular company. So, the problem is that they are not giving you any other options. The other problem you will encounter is that there are agents out there who just don’t know what they are doing.
Agents will also have different objectives. Some will truly be interested in helping you get what is best for you and earn your future business and referrals. Others are just in it for a quick buck. Don’t get stuck buying a "watered" down health insurance plan that an agent wouldn’t sell to his/her own mother.
A good health agent will take their time to ensure that you understand what your options are, and the pros and cons of each plan. A bad agent will try to "push" his/her product on you, not let you think about it, etc. He/she might even tell you that you are making a mistake by not buying his/her product on the spot. If an agent tells you that, you’ll know he/she is trying to "sell" you, not help you.
The difference between independent and captive health agents is that a captive agent must sell a particular product. An independent agent will help you choose the product that is best for you. Premiums will vary based on where you live (in some areas plans are cheaper than others), your age, and your health.
Agents do not control prices. Prices are set by the health insurance company. The control agents have over prices is limited to the "extras" or "add-ons" the health insurance company offers. You do not get a lower rate by going direct to the company. The benefits using a good health insurance agent are:
- Better service.
- More options.
- Faster response times.
- Learn about and understand the health insurance plans you are looking at.
- Someone to answer your questions and help you minimize the cost and maximize the benefits of your health insurance policy.
Choose an agent you feel comfortable with and who will be available to answer questions before AND after you purchase your health insurance policy. Ask for quotes from several different carriers.
Choose an agent that is interested in getting you the plan with the best value for your hard earned dollars. This means that you will be paying a lower premium and the agent will make a lower commission. *If the agent is opening with a $500 deductible or the most expensive plan they offer, then they are trying to get you to pay more. They are searching for a price point (how much will you pay), and are trying to "sell" you. The $500 deductible does not usually provide good value to you, but that varies depending on where you live and how old you are. The health insurance company wants you to take a higher deductible and they price their plans accordingly. Just look at the annual price difference of the different deductibles.
Choose an agent who is properly licensed and whose license is current. Believe it or not there are people out there selling insurance with out a proper or current license. You can look up an agent’s license free at the Department of Financial Services for your state. You also want to be sure that you are buying health insurance from properly registered heatlh insurance company.
Avoid agents who refuse to give, send or leave you information (i.e. prices, benefit summaries, etc.). Especially if they say they are not allowed to or it’s against company policy. These materials were designed and created for you and every company has them. Each company has gone through great lengths to get these materials approved by the Department of Insurance.
The only reason I can think of for not giving you the information is because they don’t want you to read it closely.
Take your time, review the materials, and ask questions. A good agent is one who is patient and willing to help you until you decide you are ready to purchase. They will make sure you know exactly what you are buying and why.