2.7.21

Your Insurance and Medicare Questions Answered

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Larri Luthy and Eve Rogus of Lighthouse Group as guests on the Consumers Credit Union podcast "Money, I'm Home".

Eve Rogus adn Larri Luthy from the Lighthouse Group share some great questions we should all be asking about Medicare and health insurance as retirement nears.

 

[transcript]

0:00:03.1 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union, from finance to fitness, we have it all. What a year it has been and what a year it’s going to be, and today, we are going to be focusing on you and getting your life in order when it comes to insurance, both business and personal, and joining us today are two experts in the field. We have Eve Rogus, the senior vice president of Lighthouse Group, and Larri Luthy, senior producer of Lighthouse Group. Thank you so much for both joining us today on such an important topic.

0:00:38.0 Eve Rogus: You are welcome, Lynne. We’re happy to be here.

0:00:40.9 LJJ: So let’s start off. Eve, tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to be where you are today. And then, we’re going to also, later on, talk a little bit about trends that you’re seeing in the industry.

0:00:54.6 ER: I know we only have a couple of minutes, I’ll just say that I started my insurance career at Care Choices HMO and Priority Health, and developed a passion for group health insurance, and dental, and disability, and life insurance, and employee education and patient advocacy, and followed that passion and went to Lighthouse Insurance Group and started their benefits division about 23 years ago, and it’s been a great, great career for me.

0:01:21.7 LJJ: That is amazing. Larri, how about you?

0:01:23.0 Larri Luthy: Well, it’s funny, because I knew Eve from a long, long time ago when we were both working for different carriers. So she just gave a timeline. We could probably almost back up about that far, and we’ve both come to Lighthouse in roundabout ways. The Retiree Resource Center, which is the part I’m most passionate about, that deals with all things Medicare.

0:01:44.8 LJJ: That is amazing. So, Larri, you really focus on the personal information, especially as we are working toward retirement, and Eve, you’re helping businesses help their employees. So, let’s start off with a little bit of background on the past year, because I can tell you, I know more people who have retired, Larri, this past year, because of everything that happened. The fact that they could retire is a wonderful thing, but then I’m sure you’ve also seen other people who look in the mirror and say, “What am I going to do?”

0:02:19.3 LL: There are a lot of people who reached out to us last year and they said, “I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore.” COVID, the marketplace, the atmosphere with everybody working and losing their jobs, they’re like, “I’m done.” So we had a huge influx of retirees coming in, but we also had that group of people that said, “You know, I don’t know what my plans are now with COVID. I’m just going to keep working as long as I can.” So we’re navigating both sides of that—the people that retired unexpectedly and those that want a timeline for, what do I do next if I’m going to keep working?

0:02:54.9 LJJ: On the business side, Eve, this really does get down to, how does an individual find out about what benefit plans they have, and then also, making sure that the employer is focusing on the person to make sure those benefit plans can help long-term.

0:03:13.8 ER: Well, I would say that the biggest topic right now from an employer standpoint is workforce re-engagement. How do we re-engage our employees? How do we make them feel good about their benefits? How do they use their benefits? What’s the smartest way to use those benefits? What is the value of those benefits? And trying to attract and retain employees, because as you know, a lot of employees are wanting to work from home, and a lot of employers did not have a work-from-home strategy. So with that comes a lot of mental health issues. So your benefits address most of the mental health issues in the marketplace today, but there’s still room for a lot of plans to expand on the mental health benefits, because a lot of people are suffering mentally from this pandemic, and then also from working from home, because it’s been a huge life shift for a lot of people. So, we’ve been helping our employers drive that communication home to their employees.

0:04:08.0 LJJ: Larri, do you think that employees themselves are reticent sometimes to ask the questions or just think, they’re going about their day-to-day business, they see the benefit plans, but they’re not asking the right questions to get to the point of retirement.

0:04:23.2 LL: They’re absolutely not asking the right questions when it comes to Medicare. People go out, they try to educate themselves, they try to read on medicare.gov, and we have found this…

0:04:33.9 LJJ: Like Google, right? I’m going to Google it, right?

0:04:36.9 LL: Oh, absolutely. But even their number one source, medicare.gov, we have found, as agents, unless we know the question, or unless we know the answer, we don’t even know the question to ask, so it’s even harder for the clients who are calling us. So we take them by the hand and we walk them through this entire process, starting with education, and we’re very consultative, and we have timelines for what to do when, and we talk to people about, what should I enroll in? When should I enroll? What happens if I delay enrolling? There’s a lot of little nuances to Medicare that can be very confusing, and we just take them by the hand and walk them through the process.

0:05:15.5 LJJ: And have you found, just like Eve, Larri, that the questions became… And I don’t want to say panicky, but definitely more intense once COVID hit?

0:05:27.7 LL: Absolutely, because then they were in a position to have to decide what to do about retirement, about Medicare, things that they put off thinking about because they didn’t understand it, so I’m just going to deal with it later, and all of a sudden, we have to deal with it. So, I think they were very appreciative that they had somebody to call who is going to make sense of the confusion, the complex landscape that is Medicare.

0:05:52.4 LJJ: What is the age that people should start thinking, “I need to start asking these important questions,” Larri?

0:05:58.7 LL: 62.

0:06:00.0 LJJ: No matter what.

0:06:02.2 LL: 62, call and have that conversation with us. It doesn’t mean that you are going to retire, but we want people to stop being afraid of Medicare. Let’s get them educated so they know what to expect, and at 62, they’re already going on somebody’s mailing list where they may start getting mailings and little postcards and somebody calling, and they start to get it and they don’t know what to do, so they just don’t answer the phone.

0:06:29.8 LJJ: And Eve, I think that’s another good point, of saying those who are working and the companies who have benefit plans that are tremendous. Consumers is one of those. We have a wonderful benefit plan, but there are choices that you have to make, and how important is that partnership to make sure that an employer can offer the easy answers when employee has to have it at a time that perhaps, it’s not workday? Although there is no workday anymore, is there? It’s 24/7. But is that really how insurance has evolved?

0:07:06.9 ER: Insurance, yeah. So one of the reasons why Larri works with our team, because she solely works on referrals from our commercial clients, because as you know, the baby boomer age is, they were people born between 1945 and 1960, and we’ve been seeing this tidal wave coming for quite some time and we prepared for that, because the tidal wave is, is that you have a lot of baby boomers now that are re-thinking, should I continue to work, and what are my choices while I work actively? Should I take the employer’s group health plan, or should I decline that plan and consider Medicare, a Medicare supplement, a Medicare Advantage Plan? When should I enroll? When should I time it? In today’s world, there are a lot of valuable employees that are over age 60 working in the marketplace today, far more than there was 10 or 15 years ago, and so a lot of these employers want to take care of their employees while they’re actively working, but they also want to take care of their employees as they transition into retirement.

0:08:06.6 LJJ: Well, I think, though, that what this is showing, honestly, is that there… The importance of knowledge when it comes to life-changing decisions, and we know for a fact that this year has been full of life-changing decisions for every single person, no matter what their age, but especially now, with the workplace changing so drastically, it is really important. Eve, is there one or two things that you would say to a small business, a company that is starting to grow, what are the things that they should be looking for to attract and retain those clients, those employees?

0:08:43.0 ER: Yeah, great question, Lynne. I mean, no question about it, health insurance is probably the primary benefit that they should all be considering—health insurance, dental, vision, disability, life, Those are the key core benefits that employers need to be considering. They’re not cheap, and it does help support the fact that they should be working with an agent or a broker, because we’re experts in the field and we have the ability to represent our carriers here in Michigan, and we have very few options on the medical side. Our market’s very suppressed because of the Affordable Care Act. We don’t have a lot of choices here in Michigan, but within those carrier partners, there’s literally probably 100 different products that you could choose from—HMOs, PPOs, point of service networks and so on. So, with a smaller employer or somebody in a growth mode, they need to be consulting with somebody that does this full-time, and that’s my primary passion, along with the other benefits that come along with that.

0:09:38.0 LJJ: Larri, how about you? What do you think are the top two or three components that people really should be thinking about as they’re nearing their retirement?

0:09:46.6 LL: It’s really just becoming educated on what to expect as they approach retirement. And it’s interesting, I want to follow up on what Eve said; she said the benefits are very expensive, they are, but guess what? It costs zero to use my resources, because we get paid on the back end by a carrier. So we teach those Medicare 101 seminars. It doesn’t cost anything to attend. It doesn’t cost anything for somebody to sit down and have a consultation with me as I walk them through the process, even help them enroll in the supplemental coverage. It costs zero for them. The insurance carrier will pay us. The other thing is, when we teach those seminars, I tell a very personal story about why I am involved in what I do, and it is such empathy for the people that I’m working with, that I just know how confusing this is, and I want to truly help them through the process.

0:10:41.8 LJJ: So, Larri, why are you involved in what you do?

0:10:45.3 LL: It has to do with way back in 2001, when my mother was in the hospital, dying of complications of diabetes. She had stroked out, and we put her in there on Sunday. They’re doing a lot of work, but she is actively dying. That is the thing; she’s actively dying. A caseworker stopped me in the hall on Wednesday and said, “I needed to move my mother,” and I was kind of helpless, not knowing what to do. There was no way I could take her home. I did the phone calls, I went and visited a few places, came back, stood in the hall and said, “I don’t care what you do with her, but I’m not moving her.” And we disconnect life support on Friday, and she dies on Saturday. But that sense of helplessness and hopelessness, not knowing what to do and having nowhere to turn, that stuck with me. So, when this opportunity came up with Lighthouse, I just said, “I’m your girl. You don’t have to interview anybody else because I’m your person.” I guess they believed me.

0:11:41.6 LJJ: And I’ll tell you, I think that’s what’s the key, though, isn’t it? The passion that we have to help others is what we’re talking about today, and both of you have shared that tremendously well. The Lighthouse Group is a wonderful partner. And whatever company that you choose as a business, know that there are services available for you to learn more, learn more effectively, that isn’t going to cost you a lot of money, and that’s the whole point that we’re trying to make today. So, Eve and Larri, thank you so much. What a delightful conversation.

0:12:15.3 LL: Thank you, Lynne.

0:12:17.6 ER: Thank you, Lynne.

0:12:19.0 LJJ: I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson, Money, I’m Home, with Consumers Credit Union. Thank you so much Jake Esselink for your production skills. And, hey, if you have a topic you’d like to share, just send it my way, we’d love to put you on the program. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson, Consumers Credit Union, Money, I’m Home.

[music]

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