Medicare Advantage & Lawyers: How To Perfect This New Line Of Revenue
When your focus is practicing Social Security Disability law, you might be hesitant to get into the Medicare Advantage insurance business. Joe Houle certainly was.
“I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for it,” said Houle, managing partner of the Levine Benjamin Law Firm in Detroit. “It sounded promising, but frankly I think, as practitioners, we’re always hearing these pitches.”
How does it work? How does it help my disability clients? How does my disability law firm benefit?
But once he really looked at the idea, Houle said, his doubts immediately vanished.
That was five years ago. Since then, Levine Benjamin has helped nearly 1,000 of its former Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) legal clients choose Medicare Advantage plans. Clients get the health coverage they need for a better price—and the attorneys get a new stream of revenue.
Houle and fellow Levine Benjamin Managing Partner Gary Bimberg have just about perfected the practice of running an insurance agency as an additional line of business alongside their firm.
And they shared how they did it with other Social Security Disability attorneys in a recent webcast hosted by Firmidable.
Or, keep reading for major highlights of their talk:
- How does Medicare Advantage advising help your clients?
- How does opening an insurance agency grow your firm?
- How to get it right.
Why Your SSDI Clients Need Your Help with Medicare Advantage
As a Social Security Disability lawyer, you know that disability claimants become eligible for Medicare 24 months after their date of eligibility for disability benefits.
But your clients don’t always know that. They may think they can’t qualify for Medicare until they’re 65.
“Ninety-eight percent of them have no idea what to do,” said Maurice Jones, Levine Benjamin Medicare Advantage agent. “If they’re under 65, almost 100 percent of them believe that Medicare is for people 65 and older. Of the 2 percent that think they know what to do, they’re not confident to do anything.”
So your firm can help your former disability clients in important ways:
- Providing support from someone who understands their health needs, because you already represented them in their disability claim. Insurance advisers affiliated with your law firm are perfectly positioned to find the right health plan for your clients.
- Helping them find better health coverage at lower costs than basic Medicare, which typically leaves your former clients responsible for high deductibles and 20 percent of their health care expenses. Medicare Advantage plans come from private carriers your clients might recognize, and they’re approved by the government. They can feature lower premiums and more benefits, such as prescription coverage.
- Helping them navigate complicated Medicare choices at no cost to them. You can once again guide your clients through a mystifying bureaucratic system. And your practice gets paid through commissions from the insurance carriers, not fees from your clients.
People receiving disability benefits and dealing with financial hardships are truly grateful for free guidance that helps them save money on health insurance.
If you ever wanted to be in a business where people thank you every day, Jones said, helping people get Medicare is that business.
How Starting an Insurance Agency Makes Your Disability Law Firm Stronger
Levine Benjamin started with the partners looking for ways to make their firm more resilient against the challenges that disability law firms face.
“In a time of shrinking SSD fees and political pressure,” said Bimberg, “we wanted to look around and see how we can expand our practice.”
Medicare Advantage became their answer, not just because it diversifies their revenue sources, but also because it helps build their original disability practice.
This is what your firm can achieve:
- More revenue: The average first-year commission your agency receives for signing up a new Medicare Advantage client is $510. When clients renew their plans every year, your firm receives about $255. To Levine Benjamin, that’s like adding another 25 percent to the value of a typical favorable disability decision. And a large majority of that firm’s Medicare Advantage policy holders (hundreds of them) renew year to year, creating a stable, long-term income source.
- A ready source of revenue: These clients already had a great experience with your law firm. They won their disability claims. They’re predisposed to working with you again. So your disability practice becomes a natural source of clients for your Medicare practice. “We have a captive audience,” Bimberg said. “The client’s already familiar with us. They’re happy with our services.”
- Referrals for more SSDI cases: Having a Medicare Advantage practice also grows your disability practice because it gives you an ongoing relationship with past clients. By helping them with Medicare, you stay at the top of their minds—and your clients are more likely share your name with friends, family members or neighbors when they need help with disability benefits.
What You Need to Make a Medicare Advantage Practice Work for Your Law Firm
The No. 1 requirement for success with a Medicare Advantage insurance agency adjacent to your legal practice? Hire a good insurance agent.
Levine Benjamin discovered this through trial and error. The partners went through agents who didn’t work out well in the role before finally finding the right people to build the Medicare practice and reach full stride.
“If you don’t have a good agent, you will absolutely flounder,” Houle said. “You will absolutely fail. You’ll be frustrated. And you’re going to question the value of this program.”
In addition to getting a good agent in place, these are the other keys to Levine Benjamin’s success with Medicare Advantage:
- Get your insurance agent the necessary training. Anyone over 18 can go through the training and certification process to become an insurance agent, said Mark Snihurowych, president of Disability Health Advocates, a company that helps firms like Levine Benjamin establish Medicare agencies. The process can take about a month.
- Establish your insurance business as a separate entity from your law firm. One of the most common bar association rules you’ll encounter is to make sure clients understand that the non-legal services you’re providing are not an extension of the attorney-client relationship, Snihurowych said.
- Buy errors and omissions insurance coverage. This coverage protects you from the costs of any malpractice claims against an insurance agent working for you (whether the agent is you or someone you hire).
- Decide on the compensation structure for your insurance agent. Levine Benjamin established a salary so the agent can pay their living expenses but added a commission on top of that to provide an incentive to sell policies.
- Set up a system for tracking when your disability clients reach the 24-month eligibility point. This seemingly simple step is crucial for getting Medicare clients in the door and revenue flowing. Once this is in place, your insurance agent has a readily available pool of people to start signing up for policies.
“It’s basically completing the circle of service,” said Snihurowych. “You help them get their SSDI. And what many firms do is once their client gets the SSDI, that’s the end of the relationship.”
“Really what we’re trying to do is help you change the expectations,” so clients remain connected to you and come back for health care help, he said.
If you’re interested in adding Medicare Advantage insurance advising to your disability law practice, the Firmidable legal marketing agency can get you in touch with people who can help.
Firmidable has been a national expert in legal marketing for almost 30 years. It brings law firms customized, data-driven marketing strategies and services, including online and traditional media for a wide range of legal practices. From Maine to Hawaii, it has transformed the lives of attorneys—and their clients.