Now that you have chosen your carriers and submitted your contracting, you’re ready for the next step in the process.
I know, and if you’re a seasoned agent, I heard that groan.
But certifications are tests that have been designed to verify an agent’s knowledge of the rules and guidelines that are enforced by CMS in an effort to protect the beneficiaries, aka, your clients.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for certifications. But in our imperfect world, agents must acknowledge that they understand the details of providing this important service.
We serve a vulnerable group of citizens that, unfortunately, tends to be taken advantage of.
By completing certifications, we not only protect beneficiaries from players with bad intentions, we simultaneously protect the integrity of the Medicare program.
So, which Medicare products require certification?
Medicare Part C and Medicare Part D require annual Medicare certification, including Fraud, Waste, and Abuse training.
So, if you’re planning on selling Medicare Part C, what we refer to as Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part D, which are prescription drug plans, you’ll need to complete this training.
Also, important to note, some Medicare Supplement carriers may also require annual certification in order to sell their products, but this is not overly common.
Several different resources are authorized to offer online training with valid certifications that insurance carriers will accept.
In addition to this general Medicare training, insurance carriers offering these Medicare coverage options also require product-specific certification training.
So, your first certification will be to sell Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans in general. Additional certifications will include product trainings from the carriers you appoint to sell with.
It might sound like a lot of work, but think of product trainings as a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the carrier and the plans you’ll be offering your clients.
You’ll likely pick up a few points you can use in your sales pitches.
And don’t forget that we’re here to help at Ritter!
We don’t want you to have to waste your valuable time figuring out which certifications you might need to take. Our team provides agents with a variety of resources so you can focus on taking — and passing — those annual certifications.
You can find guides for accessing each carrier’s certification process in Ritter’s Certification Center, and we’ll be linking to that in our resources.
Moving on, let’s talk about when you can expect to complete these certifications.
As we mentioned, certification for Medicare plus Fraud, Waste, and Abuse is an annual training.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP for short, and other resources that offer this certification usually launch in late June or early July each year for the next calendar year’s products, which will be offered to beneficiaries during the Annual Enrollment Period.
Generally, the earlier you can complete your Medicare plus Fraud, Waste, and Abuse training, the better.
Most agents complete the training when it becomes available, well in advance of the upcoming AEP in October.
But if you just got appointed with a Medicare Advantage plan and it’s January, you would want to complete that certification immediately, if you’re not already certified.
However, if you’re looking to add a carrier for the upcoming AEP at the end of May, it may benefit you to hold off until the next year’s testing becomes available.
For the most part, once certifications are released for the next calendar year’s products, carriers will count the completion of the next year’s certification toward the current year’s products.
That being said, there are a few cases where carriers may require both the current year and the next year’s product certification modules be completed to sell plans that will be effective during the current year.
We covered a lot of information here, so to recap, let’s break down the steps to certification.
Step One. Create a list of carriers you’ll need to certify with. Start with certifications for the current calendar year so you can sell for the remainder of the year. Then, move on to the carriers for the upcoming selling season, so you can sell for the upcoming calendar year during AEP.
Step Two. Check each carrier page to determine the specific carrier requirements to prevent duplication of effort. If you’re a Ritter agent, you can use our Certification Center to simplify this task.
Step Three. Complete the Medicare plus Fraud, Waste, and Abuse training at your earliest convenience.
Some additional tips and considerations I’d like to share with you before you certify.
Be aware that when you’re completing your Medicare plus FWA trainings, you must designate each carrier you would like your results sent to prior to exiting your testing.
Each testing platform may have their own process for sending test results, but there should be a walk-through or guide.
Make sure you read the material thoroughly. In most cases, these are open book tests. If you have two screens available, use them.
Have your notes open on one page and the test on the other. You can also minimize your windows on the same screen to essentially split your screen.
Also, keyboard shortcuts are your friend. While they no longer work in the AHIP modules, in most programs for notetaking, clicking on the text and then hitting CTRL+F on your keyboard will allow you to search the document for a specific word or phrase.
Some carriers have requirements on how many times you can attempt Medicare plus FWA testing prior to passing in order to qualify as a valid certification.
For some, it’s three attempts, and you’re not able to sell their products for an entire plan year.
So, as time-consuming and repetitive as the certifications may seem, they are also required to be deemed ready-to-sell for the period covered by the certification.
They’re also required to receive any renewal commissions paid during the period covered by the certification.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier in this lesson, carriers may also have requirements for their product modules, and those are provided in their testing portals.
Pre-COVID, a rare carrier may require face-to-face attendance at a live meeting with a carrier representative as part of their certification process. As stated, these were rare even before social distancing became a “thing” but it is worth mentioning just in case.
And that’s certification!
Don’t forget our certification center as you’re moving through this process. And of course, if you have questions, reach out! Our team would love to talk with you and answer your questions about certification.
What comes next? Join me in the next lesson to find out.