The launch of the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare" has made one thing very clear. No, not the government's giant underestimation of setting up a functioning website, it has allowed you the opportunity to know if you bought your health insurance from the right person.
If you messed up and are one of those people who has an agent who couldn't tell you a meaningful piece of information about the law if it was stapled to their forehead. Or, if a cold lonely night in November led you to buying a health insurance policy by yourself online...
Don't worry, it happens to the best of us.
Also, it's an easy fix.
Before We Get Started
You could have bought your policy in one of two ways, direct from one insurance company or through an independent agent.
When you "buy direct" you can do that over the phone or online. No matter how you complete that transaction, if you went directly to one company your policy will be assigned an agent. One whose name you never knew or surely can't remember now.
A direct agent will only be able to discuss insurance options from that company, period. That means no comparing prices or "shopping around" for your health insurance.
If you bought from an independent agent, it's important to know that they are not all created equal. If they admit it or not, every independent agent or broker focuses on one type of insurance more than others. You are going to want to make sure you have someone who is focused on not just health insurance, but more importantly individual and family health insurance.
An independent agent is simply someone who doesn't work for one specific insurance company. Instead, they do business with any insurance company they feel is worth your time.
The most important part, they both cost exactly the same. No exceptions.
So if you have ever made the following statement "I like my health insurance policy but that guy/gal or company I bought it from isn't really doing much for me." Then you will want to follow this simple four step process.
Step 1: Get Mad
You don't have to go all Incredible Hulk on the guy, but you need to know when enough is enough.
If you haven't talked to your "current" agent since he sold you the policy, or he/she has called you by the wrong name on more than one occasion, then it's time to pack your things and go.
You can sit around waiting for years hoping he will become a better insurance agent or that "you can change him." But you and I both know the truth...
Show yourself enough respect to demand you have the absolute best information possible about your health insurance situation, at all times.
Step 2: Find a New Agent
The best part about this, all the good ones aren't taken.
You may have already been cheating on your old agent with someone and have just been waiting to work up the courage to walk out on the relationship. While infidelity is never recommended, you're a step ahead right now.
If you remained faithful to your agent through the good times and bad, like anyone coming out of a bad relationship, it might take a little time to get back on that horse and trust another agent again.
If you are at such a point in your journey, and are obviously reading this article, I might know of an insurance agent who will work well for you.
Step 3: Request an Agent of Record Letter
Simply ask your new insurance agent of choice if he or she can provide you with an agent or broker of letter record for the company you are currently insured with.
All you have to do is sign it and get it back to them, that's it.
The only catch here is that you will need to make sure your new agent is appointed to do business with the company you are currently insured with. Also, it would probably be in your best interest if they were also an independent agent.
Step 4: Complete the AOR
You are almost there.
Now you just need to return that freshly signed letter to your new agent and wait for your company to process the request. Usually it only take a few days, sometimes it can take a week or two.
When that's finished you will have essentially divorced your old insurance agent and married your new one with one simple letter.
Pretty painless, right?
How Long Is The Letter Good For?
Until you cancel the policy or notify them with another letter. Simple as that. This isn't a binding contract that stays in force until life on another planet is discovered.
You can rinse and repeat this process as many times as you want, however you just might want to be careful of the reputation that comes along with that kind of behavior. I'm kidding, but seriously...
Can You Do This For Your Company's Health Insurance?
The process is pretty much the same. You sign a letter saying you're tired of your insurance agents and that you want (insert new agents name) to handle your policy instead.
Are There Any Restrictions?
The only time you could run into a problem is if you just bought the policy and wanted to make a change within the first 12 months. This isn't true for all companies, but sometimes they require the policy to be active for one year before you can use an agent of record letter.
The Bottom Line
I have people call me all the time and and ask how they can become a client. They already have an insurance policy an automatically assume they have to wait until they're ready to make a change for us to business together.
You should never feel stuck with your current insurance agent. Don't think you need to go through the application and enrollment process just to get a new one. You can dramatically improve your health insurance in 60 seconds by completing an agent of record letter and finally getting the service, attention and value you deserve.
Like we talked about before, you're already paying for it, you should get your moneys worth.