The Making of a Guru Part 4 Agent training, Call me ‘Mr. President’ and National Guru Recognition

Harry Thal Insurance assists those with Medicare or insurance questions. | Unsplash/Matt Bennett

With the two local giveaway newspapers carrying my articles, I learned that many of the local medical professionals were reading my column, which was outstanding educational.

I discussed, as I do today, to inform my readers of the rules regarding Medicare as well as current events regarding health insurance. Dr. Jack Nadler was one of my readers, and on a visit to his office one day, he referred to me as the “Medicare Guru.” I liked the term, so I started using it. It apparently stuck, as colleagues in the profession started giving me the moniker as well.

One of the scary aspects of being a Medicare professional is that many people with an insurance license can write Medicare Supplement Plans with no requirement for any additional education. This was very bothersome to me. I was a member of the National Association of Health Underwriters as well as our state organization and since entering the business, my local chapter in Orange County where I served on their board of directors in various capacities. Now being in Kern County, I sought out the local chapter in Bakersfield and became very active on their board, serving twice as president.

We offered our members, most of which sold group health insurance to small- and medium-sized employer groups, continuing education (CE) credits with guest speakers. The law requires CE units to maintain your insurance license. During the luncheon, members would seek me out with questions regarding Medicare. At first, they were so confused that they would just refer the retiring group employee to me, but changes in the group commission schedule was pushing many of these agents to Medicare.

With the need for education, I bit the bullet and submitted several courses to the Department of Insurance on Medicare. They were approved, and for the sake of the unsuspecting senior, I took it upon myself to train agents. I dare say that most of the health insurance agents in Kern County have attended my classes at one time or another.

Of course, Kern County was not unique as agents who specialized in health insurance were losing commission dollars with the beginnings of “ObamaCare,” the Affordable Care Act. Now the community was becoming flooded with Medicare experts. Errors in judgment and wrong policies were being sold with little regard for the need of the senior. Many of the NAHU chapters across the state were now in need of training about Medicare and supplements. If a chapter would pay my travel and lodging expenses, I volunteered my classes to the chapter.

This was a national issue, and I became a featured presenter on a national level, traveling to Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans and New York over the next years emphasizing safety at NAHU national conventions. A group of three California chapters organized a convention strictly for agents who had a Medicare emphasis. I have never missed this annual event. We have grown from the first to a model of over 30 such meetings, as Medicare has become a major factor in agents’ portfolios.

Attending and speaking at these regional Medicare meetings has also served me well as a speaker, but also as a listener. I have learned specialty from the experiences of others, as my has become a unique recognized specialty within the health insurance community.

In the past I would get referrals because agents didn’t want to be bothered with Medicare. Now I have my “students” calling me with complex issues. Many refer the senior to me while others just take advantage.

Due to my travels and the senior clients being mobile, I am now licensed in 37 states. Once retired, many people move to places where the cost of living is less, or many elderlies move closer to family. They take me with them and I pay the out-of-state licensing fees to allow them to retain me as their agent.

TO BE CONTINUED

Harry Thal Insurance can be reached at (760) 376-2100.

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