Perhaps the greatest compliment one can pay an insurance agent (or any salesperson, really) is the referral: telling your friends, co-workers or relatives what a great job your agent has done for you. If there's anything that tops this, it might be when one agent refers a case to another, as if to say "hey, this guy may do an even better job for you than I can."
It's quite heady, really, to be the recipient of such largesse, and I am pleased when this happens to (for?) me.
Most of the time.
Recently, a fellow agent (who I've had in some of my CE classes over the years) had a difficult situation: a small group client, with whom he'd had a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship for many years, retired due to medical problems, and her daughter took over the family business. The daughter, a middle-aged woman whose primary employment is as a paralegal, and the agent butted heads, and they both agreed that a new agent would be just the ticket. Al [ed: not his real name] called me, and asked if I'd be interested in taking on the case. He gave me a little background, filled me in on the clients' current situation, and offered to do the introductions. I was flattered to be asked, and happy to take on a new client with a minimum of effort.
Or so I thought.
Briefly, this client had been with the same carrier for many years, and had for the past few been on a generic co-pay plan ($500 deductible, $20 office visits, prescription card; you know the drill). At the last renewal, Al and the client had agreed to change to a High Deductible Health Plan coupled with a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). Simple enough, right?
I met with the client this morning. Well, eventually. We had set a 9:30 appointment, and I arrived promptly, meeting with her second-in-command, an affable fellow who seemed genuinely interested in discussing what it was they wanted to accomplish. I explained some of the facts of (insurance) life to him, and made some suggestions. By 10:00, the new boss (we'll call her Elphaba) hadn't arrived, and I needed to confirm something with the carrier. So, I whipped out the old cell-phone, and called to ask a few questions. While I was thus engaged, in she breezed. I quickly rang off, and introductions were made. I asked a few questions, and she told me that she wanted her new plan set up in certain ways.
I should have known.
For one thing, this is a small company with some 15 employees, only 3 of whom were on the plan. All insurance carriers have participation requirements that dictate what percentage of employees must be covered; some are more stringent about enforcing these than others. Fortunately, the carrier here was one of the former. Still, they have certain rules and requirements. For example, she's just hired two new employees, and wishes to subsidize their premiums at a different (lower) level than those already on the plan. This can be accomplished by using classes, but the company has to be notified of such things. She argued, rather forcefully, that it was none of their business, and that she's not required to put anything of the sort in writing.
Did I mention that she's been a paralegal for over 30 years? Well, she mentioned it (more than once), as if this would magically induce the carrier to waive its requirements. I pointed out to her (nicely!) that her employment history, while certainly admirable, was irrelevant. She didn't seem to care for that.
She also wanted to self-administer the HRA. I explained that this was not a good idea: for one thing, was she familiar enough with HIPAA and Privacy Act requirements to handle such an endeavor? For another, the carrier itself offered a free such service, which included necessary plan documentation. That service might not have been flexible enough to meet all of her requirements, but certainly that would be a better choice than going it alone.
And she wanted to fund the HRA itself differently, based on when these new employees "came on board." When I explained that this is, to use industry jargon, a "no-no," she huffily explained that she was paying for the plan, and she could do anything she wanted. I agreed that, as American citizens, we are indeed free to do pretty much what we want, but doing illegal things generates consequences. She didn't like that one bit.
Can't say I blame her.
At that point, it was clear that we weren't going to be doing business together (I have enough stress dealing with recalcitrant carriers, I hardly need the additional aggravation of a stubborn, and yet clueless, client).
After I left, I called Al to thank him again for the referral, but to inform him that I wasn't going to be taking over that case after all. He sighed (more in resignation, I think, than surprise), and apologized for the apparent waste of my time. I told him firmly that he owed me no such apology: there was no way to know ahead of time that this would be the result. Elphaba and I might well have hit it off, and things might have been fine. That we didn't was no fault of his.
Plus, I got this great blog post out of it.