Tyler Petersen, New Horizons Insurance Marketing

This guest blog post was written by Tyler Petersen, National Sales Manager at New Horizons Insurance Marketing. New Horizons Insurance Marketing is a senior market FMO based in Decatur, Illinois.

Being a Medicare agent can be extremely rewarding, not only for the income potential but also because you get to make a real impact in people’s lives.

The look on a client’s face when they finally understand Medicare is one of the best parts of being in this business!

It’s no secret that starting out can be daunting, but don’t worry. This guide will help you get started so you can launch a successful career as a Medicare agent.

Have Realistic Expectations

Before you decide to get your license, it's important to set realistic expectations for your new career. 

The Medicare space has its challenges. First of all, it takes a few years to start making good money – once the renewal commissions start coming in, it becomes somewhat of a snowball, but getting there is hard work.

Second, there’s a lot to learn. From ever-changing Medicare legislation to tougher compliance rules each year, this isn’t exactly an easy industry to work in.
However, on the bright side, the need for insurance is a constant, and the Medicare population is booming. The year 2024 marks the “silver tsunami,” with a record 4.1 million Americans set to turn 65.

Approach your expectations with a blend of optimism and realism, and remember that a successful career doesn't happen overnight.

Captive vs Independent

If you’re still on board, one of the first decisions to make is whether to be captive or independent.

A captive agent works for a specific insurance carrier, whereas an independent agent is free to represent a variety of carriers. 

Each choice has its benefits and drawbacks. 

Captive agents often receive more initial training and support from their upline, as well as a steady stream of leads. Independent agents, on the other hand, have greater control over their book of business and earn more through higher commissions. 

Consider your preferences and the support you'll need before making this decision.

Licensing & Contracting

Licensing is the next crucial step. 

You definitely need your health license, but some states require an additional Medicare line (or equivalent) if you want to sell Medicare Supplements. 

Here’s a quick rundown of how that works:

  • Prelicensing: Most states make you submit proof that you completed your prelicensing education before you can get your health license.
  • Exam: Then, it’s time to take your health and life insurance exam.
  • E&O Coverage: You will need $1 million of Error & Omissions (E&O) coverage to sell Medicare Supplements.
  • Continuing education: In most states, your license is good for two years. In order to keep it active, you will need to complete continuing education. We use ABRC here in Illinois, but there are a lot of CE vendors.

Once you're licensed, you'll need to get contracted with the carriers you plan to sell for. 

Reach out to your chosen FMO to start the contracting process. For the most part, you cannot contract directly with the carrier – you will need to go through an FMO. 

Get more details on how to get licensed here.

Choosing an FMO

If you decide to go the independent route, you will need to partner with a Field Marketing Organization (FMO), which is also sometimes referred to as an IMO or NMO.

An FMO is a strategic partner that can provide you with access to a range of carriers, competitive commissions, and valuable resources such as marketing materials, one-on-one support, and technology platforms. 

When choosing an FMO, look for one that offers you a ton of value, such as free access to industry-leading software, customizable marketing materials, and a website full of helpful information.

Understanding Commissions 

One of the most compelling parts of becoming an independent agent in the senior market is the income potential.

Different products pay commissions in different ways, but for this example, we’ll cover Medicare Supplement commissions.

Most companies pay a percentage of the policy’s annual premium, which can range from 10-25% depending on your proof of production. Commission payments are considered “as-earned” when you are paid, depending on when the client pays their insurance premiums.

Your clients can pay yearly, quarterly, or monthly. If they pay annually, you get one big payment. If they pay monthly, you get 12 smaller payments.

To be a realist, you won’t make much in your first year. But if you’re consistent, it’s entirely possible to be making six figures by your third or fourth year. You can get income potential examples in our new agent e-book.

Necessary Technology

Technology used to be optional, but now it’s a necessity. Here are some of the top technologies you should consider:

  • Call recording tools: If you decide to sell Medicare Advantage or Part D drug plans, you’re required to record all sales calls and store the recordings.
  • Quoting & enrollment: The entire Medicare industry is switching to e-apps instead of paper.
  • CRM: A customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as the one from AgencyBloc, will help you store and organize all of your customer information.
  • Scheduling: You may want an online scheduling system to make scheduling appointments easier.
  • Website: You definitely need a website; it’s a non-negotiable in today’s world.

Your technology should enable you to organize your business, track your leads, comply with regulations, and communicate effectively with clients. Research your options or reach out to your FMO to see who they partner with to offer industry-specific technology to their downline agents.

Creating a Sales & Marketing Gameplan

You could be the most knowledgeable agent in the room, but without a solid sales and marketing strategy, you won’t have any clients to share it with!

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Here are 10 ways to generate free Medicare leads, with ideas ranging from creating a Google Business Profile to hosting educational seminars in your area.

The good news is nearly all successful agents we talk to share that after about 200 clients, they no longer have to advertise or market themselves. From that point on, their business grows solely from referrals.

Treat your clients right, and all that hard work will pay off!


The beginning stages of your Medicare agent career are as exciting as they are difficult. Continuous education and being able to accept changes are essential in this evolving industry.

Disclaimer: The senior insurance market is constantly changing, particularly when it comes to final rule legislation from CMS. Do your due diligence to ensure you stay informed and compliant with recent regulations.

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Posted by Tyler Petersen on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in Senior Market Insurance

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