First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kathe Kline: My husband has stage four cancer, so we’re super careful. Some of our neighbors think that we’re overly cautious, but I don’t think so. He’s doing great, and we want to keep it that way.
I’m a very social person, so I’ve been missing the interaction of others. It seems like the only social activities I get these days are talking with neighbors (six-ten feet away) during our walks with the dogs.
We’re also doing regular Zoom calls, but honestly, COVID taking its toll. But we are coping.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MedicareQuick
Kathe Kline: I was a Financial Services Representative from 1990 until 2015 when I kept just a few of my financial planning clients and started MedicareQuick.com. I’m actually completely retiring from Financial Planning at the end of 2020.
Like most financial advisors, I had no idea how complicated Medicare was. An insurance salesperson, representing himself as a Medicare expert, had signed my husband up for a Medicare Supplement plan when he turned 65. Because my husband didn’t take any medications, he told him he didn’t need a drug plan.
Five years later, I was reviewing our financial plan and found out about a penalty. This penalty was building up every single month; my husband didn’t have a drug plan. When we were finally able to add it (there are only certain times you can add a drug plan to Medicare), the monthly penalty was more than the drug plan itself. That is still true today. And my husband will have to continue paying the penalty until he dies.
That didn’t sit well with me. So I started researching. The more I researched, the more confused I got. I figured if someone like me, with a finance degree (financial services) and over 20 years’ experience at the time dealing with money, was confusing, it must have really confused my older clients! And it does.
That’s how MedicareQuick was born.
How does MedicareQuick innovate?
Kathe Kline: Because my client base is older, I am limited in what I can do. But we were virtual and using virtual tools long before COVID.
I’ve used screen sharing tools for several years now so prospective clients can see what I’m looking at when explaining something to them.
Additionally, I created a series of videos that explain key concepts. I call them classes, but they are short. My flagship Medicare Class is about 15 minutes long and explains the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage and the pros and cons of Medicare Supplement plans. Most people have no idea about the type they have. Even if they know the type, they have no idea why they have it, or what the other plan offers.
We also try to make it easy for our clients to reach us. Unlike most insurance agents, who are not very technical, we give our clients options on how to reach us. I don’t want anyone wondering how long it will take to return a phone call, so we offer scheduled phone appointments.
I also use technology to help us with our social media, our SEO, basically everything. For example, we use Google Calendar along with a calendar app. Our clients can book their annual reviews online without ever calling our office.
We also use no contact enrollment technology to keep our clients (and us) safe.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kathe Kline: I did turn away some clients at the beginning of the outbreak. I had come back from a cruise, and we didn’t know if we had been exposed. This was prior to the shutdowns in the US.
We were self-quarantined just in case. I had a few prospects want to meet with me in person. I refused for their own safety. I didn’t want to be the cause of anyone getting sick, even though we all felt fine. But because of it, I lost sales.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kathe Kline: We had a team member that lived in the Philippines, and like all of us, worked remotely. He was very affected by the lockdown. He couldn’t get it together. After 3 months of him not working, we finally had to let him go. That wasn’t easy because he used to be a great member of the team.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and MedicareQuick in the future?
Kathe Kline: This has been very difficult. My husband and I finally made an agreement that we will NOT watch TV until we’ve exercised. Walking the dogs doesn’t count. We’ve been binge-watching Homeland, so we’ve been very regular about exercising. This has been very helpful in dealing with stress. I’ve been using the Beach Body On Demand program, and my husband is using weights.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kathe Kline: I have a lot of competitors! Every insurance agent in the country is my competitor, and believe it or not, my own vendors compete with me. We meet with our clients twice a year. Once near their birthday, and the other time is during the Annual Election Period. Not all agents do this. Many are “love ’em and leave ’em” kind of agents. They enroll the client and then let the insurance company take it from there. Not us. The most important part of our jobs (in my opinion) is helping them deal with their drug plans each year. It’s not something we get much pay for, but it can cost our clients thousands of dollars extra if they are on the wrong plan.
Your final thoughts
Kathe Kline: Although I loved being a financial advisor, and it was scary to pivot after 20 years, it’s been a good change for me.
I feel like I’m making a difference in the world.
If you are thinking of pivoting yourself, and it’s something you are passionate about, do it! But make sure you have a buffer so that you can survive the first 2 years. It will likely take 2-3 years for you to bring your income back up to what it was before you pivoted.