Contract & Get Appointed to Sell with Health Insurance Companies

You’ve made the decision to start selling health insurance and passed your licensing test, but now what? Let’s walk you through contracting with health and life insurance carriers and getting appointed to sell their products.

Partnering with carriers is vital if you wish to sell health insurance; it’s how you build the portfolio of plans you’ll offer to your clients. Learn how Ritter can make the process go smoother.

About Carrier Contracts & Appointments

Getting contracted and appointed with a carrier allows insurance agents to act on behalf of insurance carriers to offer their products. In short, you must sign an official document, indicating your agreement to the terms and conditions of the carrier and field marketing organization (FMO) you’re working with, and meet other requirements from the carrier.

The exact contracting and appointment process can differ from carrier to carrier. Carriers may ask you different questions or ask you submit additional documentation with the contract. Questions tend to relate to your background, banking info (for commission payments), credit history, and criminal record. Usual required documents include proof of Errors and Omissions insurance, your license to sell, and a W-9 for tax purposes. Certification is also often required to become appointed with carriers.

You can get more details on what to expect during the contracting and appointment process in Path 2 of Knight School – Laying a Solid Foundation.
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Getting Contracted vs. Getting Appointed

You may have heard “carrier contract” and “carrier appointment” used interchangeably, but there are slight differences between the two terms.

In order to be contracted with a specific carrier, you must have selected the states you’ll sell in and have chosen the products you wish to sell. The final step to completing your carrier contract is to sign and submit your paperwork to your FMO or the carrier.

A carrier appointment means that a carrier has finalized your contracting paperwork and issued you a writing number. This allows you to finally start selling their plans! Completing contracting does not mean you are deemed “ready-to-sell,” and you won’t be issued a writing number until you are.

Think of it this way: Contracting is part of the appointment process.

Why Carrier Appointments Matter

Being a licensed agent alone is not enough. In order to sell health insurance, agents must be appointed with carriers to offer their products.

By selling a carrier’s products, you’re representing their product and their brand, and it’s important that you understand that responsibility. As an insurance agent, you’re legally responsible for conducting due diligence on behalf of your clients. You may be held liable for any mistakes made in the process. Insurance companies will disclose all your responsibilities in your contract. They’ll also lay out the commissions you’ll earn for selling their products in compliance with the contract!

Costs Associated with Contracting

There are occasionally costs associated with the contracting process which can add up. The most common costs that occur are state appointment fees. Each state that you choose to work with may charge each of the carriers a fee for filing an agent or agency appointment. In most cases, MAPD and PDP carriers will cover the appointment fees for resident states, but will require payment in non-resident states.

Remember, these fees can easily fluctuate from no fees to more than $100 per appointment. In addition to the amount, some carriers require payment up front while others will take the fee from your first commission.

Getting Appointed with Medicare Carriers Overview

If you want to sell Medicare products, getting appointed with carriers well ahead of the Annual Enrollment Period is crucial to becoming a top agent in your area. Contracts typically take a few days to process, but that can turn into a few weeks closer to AEP, so we recommend contracting by August for any products you’d like to offer the upcoming plan year. Then, you can also stay on track with completing your carriers’ certification requirements. Updated trainings go live throughout the summer. Details on those certification requirements can be found on Ritter’s Certification Center.

Contracting to Sell Medicare Plans

Traditionally, to contract with Medicare carriers, agents filled out contracting paper forms and faxed them to carriers or their FMO. While this is occasionally still an option today, most agents save time and streamline the process by completing contracts online. You can register with Ritter to gain access to our Platform with prefilled digital contracting for more than 120 carriers! The Platform is your central hub for all of your contract insight, client management, commissions reports, and more.

To contract with carriers through the Ritter Platform, follow the steps below.

  1. Log in to the Platform at App.RitterIM.com.
  2. Click on the Contracts tab.
  3. Click on Contract Now.
  4. Follow the prompts that appear on the page, including selecting your level, states, carriers, and products.

We offer digital, prefilled contracting for many carriers. In some cases, paper contracts may be accepted. We can email, mail, or fax these forms to you.

Getting Certified (or Re-Certified!) to Sell MA & Part D Plans

After submitting your contracting paperwork, you’ll need to complete Medicare certification trainings every year in order to sell Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. These trainings include Medicare and Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) certification and additional carrier-specific certifications. Both trainings are offered by third parties such as America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), Pinpoint, and Sentinel Elite. Check with the carriers you work with to review their updated product trainings.

Are you an agent selling Medicare who’s looking to learn more about AHIP certification? Read our post about the process. AEP is the most crucial time of the year for Medicare agents. If you’re already registered as a Ritter agent, utilize our Ritter Certification Center to find which compliance trainings carriers accept and additional certification requirements that may be required from specific carriers.

Getting Appointed with Under-65 Carriers Overview

If you’ve chosen to add Affordable Care Act (ACA) products to your portfolio, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready-to-sell before the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) which begins annually on November 1! We’d recommend completing certification requirements and contracting with any new under-65 products you’d like to offer for the upcoming plan year by September.

Certifying to Sell ACA Plans

To sell ACA products, you’ll need to take the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) certification each year, if you’re selling in federal exchange states, and/or state-based exchange certifications, if you’re selling in states not on the federal exchange. Unlike AHIP, the FFM certification is free. Additionally, unlike with Medicare products, carrier certifications are typically not required for selling ACA plans.

When you’re ready, you can sign in through the CMS portal and complete the steps for training on the Agent Broker Registration Status page. It’s important to know that certifying can affect initial and renewal commissions, depending on the carrier.

Contracting to Sell ACA Plans

Contracting can come after certification for ACA plans, since the certifications required are at the marketplace/exchange level instead of the carrier level. As is the case with many Medicare carriers, many under-65 carriers accept digital contracting instead of paper contracting. Agents can also complete online ACA contracting through the Ritter Platform!

To contract with ACA carriers through the Ritter Platform, follow the steps below.

  1. Log in to the Platform at App.RitterIM.com.
  2. Click on the Contracts tab.
  3. Click on Contract Now.
  4. Follow the prompts that appear on the page, including selecting your level, states, carriers, and products.

If a paper contract is required or preferred, we can email, mail, or fax these forms to you. Our competitive product portfolio ensures that you have access to the plans your under-65 clients are looking for!

Just-In-Time Appointments

In many cases, agents must be appointed with carriers before selling their plans, but some insurance carriers operate using Just-In-Time appointments (JIT). JIT appointments allow the carrier to wait to fully execute an appointment until the agent has written business in the state of appointment. This allows agents to save on paperwork or money associated with appointment fees in case they don’t write business with a carrier.

Not all carriers, states, or product types allow for JIT appointments. We tend to see this type of appointment offered by many life insurance carriers.

What Carriers Are Looking for in an Agent

You’re excited to start selling insurance products, but just wait — we’re almost there! Partnerships are a two-way street. How can you increase your chances of your contracting paperwork being approved?

Insurance carriers are looking for great agents in good geographical locations who are excited to sell their products. An excellent client portfolio and successful track record are a few of the priorities for many carriers. Insurance carriers want to make sure they’re bringing on strong agents, and you should make sure that you’re prepared to answer the tough questions.

Carriers may ask questions about:

  • Your agency’s location
  • The type of business you’re looking to do with the carrier
  • The carriers you may already be appointed with
  • General business and financial goals

If you meet the required criteria, those carriers for which you completed contracting and certifications are likely to deem you ready to sell. If you can confidently expect to meet certain production requirements, it’s possible you can be contracted at a higher level and receive higher commission and incentives.

What to Look for in Carriers

Having a complete portfolio that includes many options for Medicare, under-65 insurance, dental, vision, life, and other ancillary insurance products is key to a well-rounded and diverse business. Finding all the right products to meet your clients’ needs is also vital to being their trusted agent of record.

We cover what carriers and products to look for in Path 4 of Knight School – Expand & Dominate. Some key takeaways include:

  • Your clients’ needs are diverse; it’s important that your portfolio is equally diverse
  • Never miss a sales opportunity
  • Understand your clients’ demographic information to understand the needs of all your clients
  • Keeping your portfolio updated keeps your business competitive

Do your own research and determine which plans and carriers are most popular in your area. These are the carriers that you should appoint with.

Be aware that carriers may ask difficult questions related to your credit background or criminal history. It’s important to answer truthfully and be prepared to explain the circumstances, if necessary. It’s important to note that, if you answer “no” to a question and the carrier finds something during the background check process, there’s a good chance that the carrier may immediately decline your appointment and will not accept an explanation.

To hear more about what it means to maintain a diverse and competitive portfolio, check out “The Perfect Portfolio” module in Knight School! We provide details on how to build strong portfolios for Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, prescription drug, and non-Medicare plans.
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After you’ve contracted and appointed with carriers, you’re ready to start selling insurance! Find some quality leads and meet new clients who are looking for insurance! Remember, we are always available to help all of these processes go smoother.

If you’re not already a Ritter agent, register with our site to complete your portfolio and start selling the products your clients need!

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