What’s the difference between and insurance agent and an independent insurance agent/broker?
Sometimes the words broker and agent are used interchangeably. An independent broker may also call themselves an agent, since it’s the word most people know, but likely they’ll specify that they’re an “independent agent.”
How Do I Interview a Prospective Agent?
The key question to ask the agent or broker you’re talking to is, “Are you independent? Do you only represent one or two companies, or can you offer me plans from a bunch of insurance companies?”
In other words, are they an agent who works only for one insurance company? Or are they an independent broker, who can offer you the best plan from the best company for you? Are they going to be ramming the plans of one company down your throat, or will they start with your specific needs and find you the best plan and company?
A “captive” agent is employed by a specific insurance company. It’s their employer. An independent broker is self-employed, or part of an agency or FMO that works with many independent agents.
Agents with PandaCare are independent and can offer you coverage from many different insurance companies. Our services are no cost to you. Whichever insurance company you choose to go with provides us with a commission.
Make Sure You Have Choices
It’s simple. Do you want more choices?
Do you want a better chance of getting the best possible plan, the most coverage and the best price?
Captive agents don’t have as many options as independent agents.
Should I Go With a Name Brand Insurance Company?
Sometimes the best known insurance companies have the best plan for you. Those well-known brands are often great companies with great insurance products.
Sometimes there’s a better plan with a great company that’s been around forever- the weird thing is you just haven’t heard of them! It’s true- there are insurance companies over 100 years old that the average person has never heard of.
It’s certainly your choice whether you want to go with the name brand, or not, but keep in mind that one reason they’re a name brand is that they spend a lot of money advertising that brand, and if you go with them, the cost of that advertising increases the costs you pay for your healthcare.
At PandaCare, we recommend a variety of carriers and plans- including better and lesser known companies.
How Do You Know If It’s a Good Plan?
There’s a nationally recognized company called AM Best that rates all insurance companies in terms of their financial strength- and that means their ability to pay claims. Included in that is how much money they have and how reliable they are.
Similarly, Medicare rates plans based on satisfaction surveys from members and health care providers with overall performance star ratings. Ratings range from 1 to 5 stars. A 5-star rating is considered excellent. These ratings help you compare plans based on their quality and performance.
Most of the tools insurance agents use to look up plans for you also include each carrier’s ratings, so that means we’re not just looking at plans and coverage but also the reliability of the carrier.
Is The Agent Looking Out for Your Best Interests?
Some more questions you may want to ask any agent…
Do you perform a needs analysis for me before you recommend plans? The more they know about your situation, the more likely you are to get the best plan.
Do you sell both Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage, or just one of them? Offering both gives you more options.
Can you help me if I’m having financial trouble? Great agents understand what’s available from Medicaid, LIS (Extra Help for prescription drugs), and Special Needs Plans.
The more you know about what your agent offers, the more certain you can be that they’ll help you make the best decision.