Roger Marvel, Associate Director of Medicare Supplement at SMS, turns 65 today, March 13. We sat down and asked him a few questions about what it has been like for him to finally become Medicare eligible.
Q. How long have you worked with Medicare?
I’ve been at Senior Market Sales for 10 years, but I have worked with Medicare since 1978. Prior to Medicare standardization in 1992, I designed Medicare supplement plans for the company I worked for.
Q. What is it like turning 65 after years of dealing with Medicare and watching people turn 65?
It’s scary in a way. You know because I’ve been talking about it for so long, for more than 30 years and all of the sudden here I am. When I look back, 30 years ago, I thought these people aged 65 were old, now that I’m here I’m thinking you’re not old when you are 65. In another way it’s kind of like crossing a milestone. Of course, the previous milestone was 21 and that was a lot more fun.
Q. What is the most important lesson you have learned?
Don’t listen to politicians. In this 30-plus years that I’ve been in the business, you would hear all kinds of things — usually around election times about Medicare. Very few of these things have come to fruition in this time. Medicare has been on a pretty steady course, there’s been major changes through the years, but for all practical purposes other than the numbers have changed since 1966 Medicare is the same program it always has been.
Q. After going through this process yourself, what advice would you have for agents?
It’s kind of funny now that March 1, when I became eligible, the mail stopped. I got the first piece the day after I turned 64. When I got 3 months in, I started getting a little more, when I got to 6 months, I got mail about every day. It was mostly from carriers, not from agents.
I really was disappointed. Because it was carriers, I’m sure they were finding leads for their career agents. When I look at it, they always wanted to explain my rights on the outside of my envelope. I don’t think the average senior citizen gives a darn about their rights, a better phrase would be "let me explain your new health program" and some of the important target dates you will be going through soon.
Agents, if you have people turning 65 from your own client base, I think the important thing is to remind them that getting Medicare is not automatic when you turn 65. Now, if you are 65 and applying for social security, then it becomes automatic, but many people today aren’t retiring at 65. Full benefits don’t begin until you are 66. Like I said I have a whole stack of mail, one piece that was missing was from CMS telling me my so called rights. Everyone else thought they could tell me my rights, but I didn’t hear from the government. I needed to sign up. I think that’s something agents have to remember if nothing else is when they enter the conversation about Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage, tell them — this isn’t automatic. You do either have to go to the Social Security office or go out online and sign up. I think that’s one way the agent can be helpful to their client and then present your product to them as you explain what they are going through. To me that would be a top priority.
Q. Name a remarkable day in the business.
In 1984 I was designing Medicare Supplement plans and was looking for something that would make us stand out. Prior to standardization, most plans had the look back for pre-existing conditions the first 6 months. I went to our claims department and asked them how many do we actually find a pre-existing that we are denying the claim for. They answered ‘none because we don’t look.’
From that point on our Medicare Supplement had no look back for pre-existing. I don’t know if I can brag I was a pioneer of the provision, but certainly, I think I was.
It’s changed the industry to make it simpler. It’s made it better for the insured. Cause now they truly don’t have to wait at all for 100% coverage.
Q. What are you looking forward to now that you are 65?
Continue working with Medicare Supplement. I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon. I enjoy helping agents being able to deal with their clients and the carriers, I enjoy coming to work and I enjoy what I do and I wouldn’t want to change that right now. I’m having too much fun, I guess.
Q. Any big birthday plans?
My family was coming over this past Sunday to celebrate my birthday, but with the winter storm we didn’t do that. It will probably be a quiet night with my wife. But after having 65 of them, you don’t get too crazy at your birthdays anymore. Besides, I don’t have the breath to blow all of the candles out.
Happy Birthday, Roger!
—Senior Market Sales