LifeHealthPro.com, which describes itself as the only complete online destination for life & health insurance advisors, ran a blog post recently by Valerie Myers and Christopher Yeiser of Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, about the strategy that Chris Keen used to become the top independent broker last year for Maryland’s state-based health insurance exchange. You can read the article published on LifeHealthPro.com here.
Here is another version of it as well:
If you set out to locate the top-producing insurance broker for Maryland’s state-based health insurance marketplace, the state’s sparsely populated lower Eastern Shore on the Atlantic seaboard might not be the first place you’d go looking. While Ocean City is a major summer resort, its year-round population is about 7,000 people and many businesses and residents are seasonal. The county that includes it, Worcester, ranks only 17th of the state’s 24 county jurisdictions in population while having the most land mass in the state. Median household income is about $58,000, compared to the state average of $74,000
But that is where you’ll find Chris Keen, the most productive independent broker for the 2-year-old Maryland Health Connection.
Keen, owner of Keen Insurance Associates, has been in the insurance business for 21 years. He’s worked his entire career in Ocean City and has owned his own agency for the last 10 years. Being deep-rooted in the community gives Keen valuable insight into the needs of residents, which has informed his approach to addressing those needs and increasing business.
Here are his top five strategies for growing business that have helped make him a leader in increasing the number of Maryland residents who now have affordable health care coverage.
Know the community and its people
As a long-time resident of Ocean City, Keen knows there are a lot of self-employed workers and people in the service industry and other types of businesses in which incomes fluctuate seasonally. That can factor greatly into what a person ultimately pays for health coverage, so Keen provides clients with different outcome scenarios for coverage based on different income amounts. “I also target employees of area businesses that do not provide company-sponsored health insurance options for their employees,” said Keen. “I ask the employers if I can make presentations to their employees, and they’re usually happy to have me do so.”
Provide easy access to information
Early on, Keen recognized the need for easy access to basic information to help consumers make the best coverage decisions for their families. He implemented a customized eligibility system that allows him to plug in a client’s information (including income and household size) to make cost determinations. “Clients shopping for insurance were able to immediately get an idea of the costs of premiums and deductibles they would pay, depending on which insurance carrier they chose,” said Keen, “and also find out if they were eligible for any subsidies.”
Reach out to clients early and often
Just before the state’s second open enrollment period began in 2014, the Maryland marketplace switched to a new system with technology borrowed from Connecticut. Anyone who had enrolled during the initial year was required to re-enroll to maintain any tax credits for which they were eligible. In the months leading up to open enrollment, Keen and his staff reached out via email to all their clients to schedule appointments to re-enroll. “About 98 percent of my clients from year one returned to re-enroll through Maryland Health Connection with me plus, I added about 150 new clients,” said Keen.
Go to where the people are
Another way Keen reached consumers in need of health coverage was by holding seminars at businesses to provide information about the Affordable Care Act and how to enroll through the marketplace. “Having someone explain the process in a way people could easily understand went a long way toward building a level of comfort,” said Keen. When they were ready to enroll, going to him was an obvious choice.
Position yourself as an expert
When traditional advertising wasn’t yielding sufficient results for him, Keen arranged to do appearances on a local radio show. What started out as a five-to-10-minute spot to give a quick plug for his business soon turned into nearly an hour of Keen fielding questions from listeners regarding everything from general enrollment information to the legalities of the ACA, to explanations of the growing penalty for lacking health coverage without an exemption.
In preparation for the next open enrollment season for Maryland’s health insurance marketplace that begins Nov. 1, Keen plans to stick with what’s worked for him. Most of his strategies are applicable to regions similar to his, especially those with higher rates of low-to-medium earning workers with seasonally variable incomes.
The writers are, respectively, communications coordinator and manager of producer operations for Maryland Health Connection.