Are you confused by Medicare? Need to sign up for Social Security benefits but need help with that, too? You are not alone.
“About 95 percent of the people we talk to don’t understand Medicare. And just about everyone we meet feels bad about not understanding Medicare,” said Dennis Breitenfeldt, owner of Breitenfeldt Group. “I just simply ask them, do you fix your own cars? Do you feel bad about that? Then why are you knocking yourself out over this?”
Breitenfeldt Group is an independent insurance brokerage dedicated to educating and providing simple solutions for those who are eligible for Medicare. They have offices in Long Prairie, Waite Park and Brooklyn Center, with a team of brokers and customer service representatives covering the entire state of Minnesota.
“We are a true brokerage,” said Dennis. “We work with Blue Cross Blue Shield, UCare, Medica, and about 15 other companies. We don’t work for one insurance company. We work for you. We analyze your complete insurance needs and shop for you. One of the first big lessons I learned in selling insurance is you can’t serve everyone properly if you are captive to one company. One size does not fit all.”
To know how Breitenfeldt Group works, it is important to learn how the company was started and how it got to where it is today. Dennis decided to become independent and start his own business in 1990. He grew up on a dairy farm and wasn’t afraid of hard work. He began with a handful of customers and ran the brokerage from his home office.
In 2005, he hired his first employee, Allison White, and moved the business into a small rental space in Long Prairie. Allison was just 21 years old and had recently gotten back from a tour with the Minnesota National Guard in Iraq. She served for 16 months in Iraq as a heavy equipment operator. She was home and was looking for work. She had no experience or knowledge in Medicare or insurance, but she had the work ethic and willingness to learn. Dennis offered her the job. She went through proper training and quickly became well versed in Medicare and issues relating to Medicare.
Around this time, the Medicare Modernization Act was being enacted. People were confused on Medicare Part D, advantage plans and low-cost premium plans and were looking for help to sort it all out. Dennis and Allison decided to be proactive. They started offering seminars throughout the state, not to sell insurance, but to educate the public on the changes.
These seminars were effective in educating people, and they also resulted in more people calling Breitenfeldt Group for assistance in their Medicare needs.
“Medicare-eligible people really appreciate these seminars. Most were getting education in a field where they have no knowledge at all,” said White.
When they were called back with more questions or to sign up for Medicare benefits, Breitenfeldt or White would make a face-to-face visit with the potential client and again offer free services and advice.
What should be considered when choosing a Medicare health plan? A lot of things, said Allison.
“It’s like a puzzle,” she said. “We want it all to fit nice so when you leave you feel like it is complete. We help you put those puzzle pieces together.”
Some of the things to consider include premium costs, benefits, provider choice, prescription drugs, pharmacy choice, convenience, travel and quality of care. What will you pay out of pocket? Are extra benefits available, like eye exams or hearing aids? Does your doctor accept the plan? Do you spend a part of each year in another state? What will your prescription drugs cost? What pharmacy can you use? Do you have or are you eligible for other types of coverage? Do you qualify for extra help? These are some of the questions that will be answered as your Medicare “puzzle” is assembled.
Most people they visit feel like they need to pay Breitenfeldt Group for their services. They don’t.
“With medical insurance, it costs exactly the same and does exactly the same thing whether you buy it from the company or a group of 28 people who know what they are doing. It costs the same, and it does the same, so who do you want on your side?” said Dennis.
The 28 people he is referring to is the current size of the staff, which includes agents at multiple locations throughout the state and a team of customer service representatives. Breitenfeldt Group quickly grew their client base after those first few years and that base continues to grow. They currently have more than 13,000 clients in the state of Minnesota. Four years after White started, they opened a second location in Waite Park (which she manages), and later added a third location in Brooklyn Center.
“We are really the only agency of this size in the state that just specializes in Medicare,” said Breitenfeldt.
And the formula for a satisfied customer has stayed the same . . . free education and guidance, face-to-face conversations and top-end customer service through the whole process.
“We have always strived to do things that nobody else has for people for free, helping them enroll not just in Medicare but also Social Security, veterans benefits or low-income subsidies if they qualify for that,” said Dennis.
And they go the extra mile to keep their clients.
“When it comes down to it, we just want our clients to be happy so they do not want to go anywhere else,” said Allison.
“We are big enough now to have people with specialties in all these areas, and yet, we are small enough to individualize each person when they call in,” said Dennis. “Probably the biggest thing that we do that most places do not do is we run their prescription list every fall against all the companies in the state, and we let them know what their options are.”
“We advise them that they are best where they are at, or it is time to make a change,” said Allison. “As brokers, we can tell them honestly because we sell for a number of companies, not just one.”
This service is not provided by many agents, said Dennis.
“Other agents are selling car, home, auto insurance and they dabble in Medicare,” he said. “We focus exclusively on the products and extra services so people don’t have anything to worry about.”
“When they tell us that their agent has not contacted them or reviewed their policy in several years and that we show them options every fall, during Medicare’s annual enrollment period, they say, ‘I should have done this a long time ago.’” said Allison.
And if a question or concern arises, clients are encouraged to call Breitenfeldt Group first instead of calling the insurance company or making a trip to the Social Security office.
“What might be a two-hour visit to the Social Security office is a quick call here,” said Allison. “It is like clockwork.”
When a client calls Breitenfeldt Group and gives their last name, the computer quickly pulls up all their information. The customer service representative can see the client’s history from the day they met until the current day. They can access all the information in any of the three locations in real time through state-of-the-art technology and can quickly answer any question or concern.
More than half of the staff covering the state are customer service representatives, and many have been with the company for years. When the customer base reaches a new level, Breitenfeldt Group hires an extra customer service rep a year ahead so that no rep has more than what they can handle. They also have more than 20 phone lines so nobody ever needs to talk to a machine.
Dennis believes customer service and “taking care of the little things,” are the two biggest reasons why they have grown to the size they are at today.
“We have gotten this big and this successful just by taking care of the details. If you make sure people get a good night sleep with one less thing to worry about, it’s tremendous to them.”
Those who are eligible for Medicare for the first time, would like to change plans or need help understanding their Medicare benefits, contact Breitenfeldt Group toll free at 1-877-732-9800.