Carrier Contracting Q&A

You might already know our Carrier Contract Specialist, Polly Perez. She is of course swamped this time of year making sure our agents’ game pieces are lined up for AEP, so we are re-purposing this article from a couple years ago with tips and tricks on carrier contracting to help smooth the road ahead for many of you.

If an agent is contracting with a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan for the first time, do you have any tips or recommendations?

The hardest part of securing your first MA plan is doing the certification but before you can certify, you’ll have to successfully complete AHIP. Once AHIP is out of the way, you can contract and certify with a carrier to sell their MA products. AHIP and MA recertifications are required annually.

Is contracting with a MA carrier different than contracting with a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurer?

Absolutely! The biggest difference is that Medigap insurers do not require agents to annually certify which makes it easier to represent Medigap plans.

When is the best time to contract new plans/products or move contracts under MedicareCompareUSA?

To ensure an agent is ready to self by October 1, we suggest agents submit changes or new insurer contracts by July 15. This time of year there’s definitely a sense of urgency to complete contracts and certifications. We’ve been notified of carriers already in a contracting backlog and they set varying blackout periods to move or complete contracts. Major carriers like United Healthcare, Humana, Aetna, will not contract agents between October 1st and the end of the year. Contracts can be submitted during the blackout, but upline changes won’t take effect until the start of the following year. Give yourself plenty of time to get released and complete all the necessary paperwork and links to contract and certify prior to October 1.

If you are contracted under a different upline and want to move your contract(s) under MedicareCompareUSA, take note because many FMOs won’t grant a release beyond August 1. We encourage you to request your release with the existing FMO by mid-July. If you have any questions, contact your National Sales Manager to review information required to move contracts or to confirm blackout periods by carrier.

What is the typical process for contracting with a MA or Medigap plan?

Our National Sales Managers work closely with you to keep your agent profile current with contact and contracting information including licensure, insurance, NPN, and contracted plans. As you request new carriers, they notify me to provide you a direct link to contract from the carrier portal. I then monitor to ensure the new contract is submitted within a couple of business days. Once you are contracted, you will receive a login in to the carrier portal to take your certification. You cannot sell until you complete the required certification. I monitor the carrier site to verify your certification is complete and send the appropriate National Sales Manager an email acknowledging you are approved and ready to sell.

At any point in the process, if a step is not completed, I reach out to you to offer assistance. I think it’s important to talk through all obstacles that agents may experience during contracting. I’m available by cell at 253-290-2327 and I can set up a Zoom meeting to help resolve issues or explain the process. Contracts vary by carriers and it can be confusing. Some carriers require a two-step process, so I am here to make sure no one gets stuck.

If moving a MA plan, what do you consider to be the absolute drop dead date before it’s too late to write during AEP?

Absolutely no later than July because a release is required from the existing upline. Additionally, once the contract is submitted to a carrier we have little control of turnaround time. Some MA plans take a little bit longer this time of year to complete contracting, so it’s always best to get the release and the contracting paperwork done as fast as possible so that you’re done before that deadline of October 1.

Do you have advice for ensuring the contracting process goes smoothly from the agent’s perspective?

The biggest challenge I find is that agents may not understand the specific steps to complete contracting and certification because it happens so infrequently. Oftentimes, contracting links are sent out but depending on the agents email system, the email might route to an agent’s spam or junk folder. If you are expecting a link from me it’s important you check these areas of your email and if you cannot find the communication, contact me promptly so I can investigate or we connect through Zoom to locate the link.

I work closely with the National Sales Managers to make sure our systems are up to date and that we have accurate email and contact information on every agent. The biggest obstacle in contracting is making sure links are getting to the agents and they are completed timely. I find it important that we communicate what to expect from the very beginning, confirm email address in case it has changed, and make myself readily available to ease the process.