By 2030, the 65+ population in the United States is projected to swell to 72 million. In the coming years, this will open up opportunities for agents to engage and educate potential clients, especially baby boomers, about senior health care options.

Today’s oldest boomers, now age 63, will start assessing these options fairly soon. In helping them perform a comprehensive analysis, agents should first recall this generation’s overall demographics and its key attitudes relative to health and wealth.

o Half or more of boomers will be at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement, with rising health care costs a major reason, say many financial industry and government reports.

o Boomers have a different set of health care expectations than previous generations. For instance, boomers expect to be healthy, stay healthy, and get “fixed” when they are “broken.” They’re already visiting doctors more often and using more prescription medications than their forebears.

o Boomers, overall, have worse health conditions than their parents, with work and diet being major contributing factors to heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

o Baby boomers are widely reported to be comfortable with technology. They are Internet savvy and will increasingly be comfortable with self-service functions.

o Boomers are willing to do their own research on health issues and medical conditions, and many challenge their health professionals concerning diagnoses and treatment approaches.

o Boomers expect, and demand, high service levels, flexible products that are personalized or customized, and clinical excellence, with no limits to getting the quality health care that they want or need.

Putting it all together, boomers will want choices in health care coverage–flexible, personalized choices that can change as individual health care needs change.

Many seniors who are new to Medicare are choosing supplemental health insurance plans because the plans offer protection from variable and potentially high annual out-of-pocket costs associated with some Medicare options, and to eliminate the confusion and hassle of handling complex medical bills.

Boomers, who are already high users of health care resources, will be even savvier when it comes to researching and understanding the fixed-versus-variable nature of Medicare offerings. Expect them to “get” the “pay me now or pay me later” differences between such offers.

Agents serving this educated, stay-healthy, fix-me-up generation will need to understand the various Medicare plans, so they can help select the best-suited plan.

Senior clients now eligible for Medicare need to know that Medicare supplement insurance is designed to help cover or offset costs not covered by Medicare Parts A and B. These plans are standardized from company to company, but can address boomers’ individualized needs for cost and service quality, for choosing their own doctors and for having access to coverage wherever they travel in the U.S.

But which supplemental plan is best? To help clients choose, try asking the following questions when comparing plan options:

o Does the plan cover the “excess charge” if the physician charges more than the Medicare-approved amount?

o What benefits does the plan offer compared to other plans? There are 12 different standardized Medicare supplement plans available in most states that offer a full array of benefit designs to meet clients’ individual needs.

o What are the other value-added services, such as a free gym membership or 24-hour nurse health-line, provided above and beyond plan benefits? Not all supplemental plans offer such “extras.” Find out which ones do, and which value-added services are important to the client.

o Does the client travel frequently? If so, a Medicare supplement plan will let the client “take their coverage along.”

o Will rates rise as the client ages? Understanding the insurer’s rating strategy will help clients make informed decisions about which plan is right now and later.

Once they turn 65, boomers will be able to buy a Medicare supplement at any time, particularly if they are no longer working or if they are covered by an employer-sponsored health plan.

The best time for anyone to buy a Medicare supplement plan is during the 6-month open enrollment period after turning 65 or losing other coverage. This will ensure the person is guaranteed acceptance into the plan.

The boomer generation promises to be one of the most significant prospect audiences for agents during the next several years. Understanding the needs of boomer clients, and personalizing approaches to their healthcare coverage, will likely result in a significant boon to an agent’s business.

Edward Martin is vice president-business development at Ovations Insurance Solutions, a UnitedHealth Group company, and is based in League City, Texas. His e-mail address is Marty.Martin@uhc.com