4 min read

Avoid cherry picking Medicare clients and beyond with these tips

Avoid cherry picking Medicare clients and beyond with these tips

You’re in your office, working away, when you get a call from an agent across the way. He mentions he pretended to have a dropped call with a client today who had a lot of conditions. He doesn’t like clients like that—too much work, not enough cash. Why bother? As you hang up, you can’t help but feel bad for that client: It just doesn’t seem right to abandon them. Well, that’s because it’s not.

Cherry picking refers to agents who deliberately select clients for their own benefit, usually selecting clients requiring less involvement. By avoiding those with complex or costly situations, agents might be trying to minimize administrative burdens. While this tactic may seem financially beneficial, it undermines the business of healthcare, your personal brand, and worst of all, jeopardizes the well-being of those who need the help most.

It’s explicitly against the CMS Medicare marketing guidelines, too.

While it might not be talked about as much in the individual market, it will cost your business either explicitly when you lose a client due to them “looking too hard to work with” or implicitly when word gets around you only want to service one type of client.

Cherry picking leaves behind a trail of disadvantaged people who are often denied access to what they need. Those with chronic illnesses, low-income families, and people living in rural areas are disproportionately affected. Avoid this practice completely by employing these strategies.

DO Provide your services fairly

The most common way an agent might have their orchard ladder kicked out from under them is by looking for “easy” clients to serve. This would definitely come off as cherry picking.

So, believe it or not, going to a Medicare event and pulling over every man “stepping with purpose” is going to look unscrupulous to CMS, and to your clients. All that will potentially do is save you time up front in the application when you don’t have to enter in any prescriptions. But there really isn’t a way to know that anyway.

In a situation like this, stay compliant: let prospects come to you, and give each and every one of them the attention they deserve. Don’t give the impression you are looking to only serve one type of person: not in your marketing materials you keep in your office, not the places you leave your business cards.

DON’T fixate on one audience

Imagine you’re at the town grocery store, working with a carrier to sell their products. They‘re asking you to sell only their brand. So far, that’s fine. The carrier happens to offer a plan designed specifically for veterans. You want to help those who served. So, like a true patriot, you scour the produce section for Desert Storm hats. You feel like a hero.

After a few instances, the carrier asks you to leave. Embarrassing.

Well, because that’s cherry picking. Approaching anybody, let alone approaching veterans specifically to support a veteran plan, is going to get you in some hot water. Now, if you sell that plan to a veteran, obviously, that’s more than ok. If you sell that same plan to a non-veteran, that’s great too. You didn’t need to cherry pick in the first place. Just use the tried and true selling skills you already have and present every good-fitting plan this carrier offers.

DO represent your local area

This even keel approach goes for language barriers, too. If you’re lucky enough to live in a diverse area, don’t go out of your way to only serve one group. Do you need to speak every language and offer every marketing material to match? Nope. Just keep a solution in your back pocket if you do run into a client who needs translation services. Don’t shrug your shoulders and walk away---or worse, take advantage of the situation and sign them up for whatever just to get the sale.

Another example: if you live in an area with large population of federally recognized Native Americans or Native Alaskans, they have additional periods in which they can enroll or switch plans on the Marketplace. Know those rules, and play them to your client’s advantage. You look like the good guy to the client, you serve your population well, and you avoid cherry picking.

DON’T only sell one plan

In that same vein, avoid getting your heart set on targeting too specific of an audience or getting too hung up on a brand new Special Needs Plan. Wandering into a hospital lobby, setting up shop, and asking every man, woman, and child who walks in if they have heard of the newest C-SNP still counts as cherry picking. No, just because you asked everybody who walked in doesn’t make it less cherry picky.

And to flip the script on our first example, don’t go to that same Medicare event and ask everyone with an insulin pump if they have heard about the newest C-SNP, either.

DO treat clients fairly

Only a doctor can tell how healthy a client really is, so leave your stethoscope at home. Instead, borrow a leaf out of a doctor’s book and keep your appointment-opening interview the same at the start of each new client relationship. This way, you are doing your due diligence as an agent, exploring all potential avenues for them while also putting any suspicions of cherry picking at bay. If you ask every client, every question, every time, you’re exercising equity.

Want an easy way to make sure you don’t forget any questions? Take a look at our consumer profile sheets. Not only do they leave no rock unturned, but they pair with CoverageForOne, our homebrew enrollment tool you can use to make your client experience run smoothly for you and your client.

DON’T be a bystander

Agents who witness cherry picking or any other unethical practices should file a complaint to the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services’ Office of Consumer Services. Don’t let yourself get wrapped up in a complaint just because you kept silent. Unfortunately, it sounds like that agent from earlier might wind up on the cherry picking radar.

DO the good work

As an agent, you know the rules are updated each and every year. The easiest way to avoid breaking a rule is to know what the rule is in the first place. Partnering with an FMO who will keep you up to date on the latest rules ensures you and your business remain ironclad.

Might we suggest ourselves on this one? While we won’t sit in with you on every client meeting, we will provide you with webinars, instructional videos, and access to a knowledge library so you can make sure you are compliant each and every day. Contact us today to get appointed with Medicare.




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