Breitenfeldt Group specializes in Medicare and offers free, professional advice and guidance
Medicare can be confusing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a co-pilot who could wipe away that confusion and guide you through the process? Wouldn’t it be nice to know you are taking the right path? Need a road map to Medicare?
Dennis Breitenfeldt started the independent insurance brokerage, Breitenfeldt Group, in 1990. Breitenfeldt works with Blue Cross Blue Shield, UCare, Medica and about 15 other companies and offers free guidance for seniors struggling to understand Medicare. Photo by Jim Palmer
“We have that road map,” said Dennis Breitenfeldt, owner of Breitenfeldt Group. “About 95 percent of the people we talk to really don’t understand Medicare. And just about every person we meet feels bad about not understanding Medicare. I simply ask them, ‘Do you fix your own cars? Do you feel bad about that? Then why are you knocking yourself out over this?’ We can provide you with a true road map to Medicare.”
Breitenfeldt Group is an independent insurance brokerage dedicated to educating and providing simple solutions for those who are eligible for Medicare. And they have 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 do not work for one insurance company. We work for you. We analyze your complete insurance needs and shop for you.”
When Dennis started selling insurance in the 1980s, he learned one valuable lesson.
“I learned that you can’t serve everyone properly if you are captive to one company,” he said. “One size does not fit all.”
Breitenfeldt Group has expanded to six offices in recent years. They now have offices in Long Prairie, Waite Park, Maple Grove (Arbor Lakes), Edina, Woodbury and Perham.
“By adding more locations, it is easier for people to stop by our office and easier for our agents to meet with people in their home,” said Dennis. “In order to handle the confusion and complexity of not only Medicare, but also the confusion surrounding the Affordable Care Act, we felt to serve our clients, it was necessary to add more physical locations. We still do home appointments, but we have made it more accommodating to meet with us face to face at our offices as well.”
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. In 1990, after selling insurance for a number of years, Dennis decided to become independent, and he started his own brokerage business. 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 full-time 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. Dennis said people really appreciated these seminars, as most were getting education in a field where they had no knowledge at all.
When they 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.
Breitenfeldt Group quickly grew its client base after those first few years and that base continues to grow.
They are currently helping nearly 20,000 clients in the state of Minnesota.
“We are really the only agency of this size in the state that specializes in Medicare,” said Breitenfeldt, who is quick to point out that the values and customer service provided back when he had 500 clients remains the same now that they are at 20,000. “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. ”
Breitenfeldt Group’s 40 agents and customer service representatives are ready and willing to serve each customer. And Breitenfeldt continues to be committed to these educational meetings, with more than 100 meetings held each year.
What should be considered when choosing a Medicare health plan? Allison compared it to a big puzzle.
“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,” said Allison.
Some of the things to consider, said Dennis, 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.
A growing part of Breitenfeldt Group’s service is providing assistance relating to the Affordable Care Act (also referred to as Obamacare).
“The Affordable Care Act can be very confusing and difficult to navigate on the state website, MnSure, if you are unfamiliar with it. We know it well. We can help,” said Dennis. “MnSure, which administers the ACA in Minnesota, has chosen 12 agencies in the state to be officially designated as MnSure storefront locations. We have three of the 12. Our locations in Perham, Waite Park and Maple Grove were selected for this designation.”
“We also advise people on Cobra, Social Security and things like ‘File and Suspend,’ and we do benefit calculations before we actually look at insurance,” said Dennis.
Most people they visit feel like they need to pay Breitenfeldt Group for all their services. They don’t. The customer service, advice and support is all free.
“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 people like we have here 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. “We have the plans, we have the people, and there is no charge or fee for our services. People almost always think that we must charge extra, but we don’t.”
One very important service Breitenfeldt Group provides takes place each fall.
“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,” said Dennis. “One of the biggest fears is when you change something, but prescription plans should be reviewed every year. And if they haven’t, you should call someone like us. A lot of people will set it and forget it, and that is never a winning strategy.”
The service is free through Breitenfeldt and is available to all their current clients, as well as anyone who is on Medicare.
“It is a service that really sets us apart,” said Dennis.
There are two big reasons why Breitenfeldt likes to review the plan.
“First, we can verify that they are in the right plan, and second, you will see the financial benefit of why you need to change for next year,” said Dennis. “It is critical to have their plan reviewed every year by an independent source… not someone who sells for only one company.”
“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.
That attention to detail is what separates Breitenfeldt Group from most insurance agencies.
“Other agents are selling car, home, auto insurance, and they dabble in Medicare,” said Dennis. “We focus exclusively on the products and extra services so people don’t have anything to worry about. If the cost and coverage is exactly the same, doesn’t it make sense to have 40 people on your side specializing in it rather than having an agent who sells car insurance and life insurance and handles Medicare on the side?”
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 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 six locations in real time through state-of-the-art technology and can quickly answer any questions or concerns.
More than half of the Breitenfeldt team are customer service representatives, and many have been with the company for several 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 30 phone lines so nobody ever needs to talk to a machine.
Breitenfeldt Group currently has more than 40 agents and customer service representatives. They are helping seniors all across the state navigate the challenges of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. Contributed photo
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. We want to make sure people get a good night’s sleep with one less thing to worry about,” said Dennis.
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. For more information, visit mnmedicareplans.com.