Helen Hogan is a financial advisor with Professional Economic Growth Group in Edison, NJ. Although her primary clients are high-net-worth couples, she works with a wide range of clients and portfolio depths. In addition to health insurance, she has experience selling long term care insurance, life insurance, and other financial planning products.

Q: Tell us about yourself. How did you get started in health insurance?

Helen Hogan: After my mom passed away in a nursing home in 2002, I decided I could take all that I’d learned about insurance and make a living out of long term care insurance. I quickly realized that in order for me to help people around long term care, I needed to be working with them early on so their financial plan could include it. As I started my business, health care insurance was a way to get in to see small-business owners.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?

HH: Getting hugs from my clients when I’ve been able to help them. Whether it’s health insurance they can afford (sort of) or a financial plan that shows them they can retire, I love the feeling of helping someone.

Q: What do you think the biggest challenge facing health insurance agents is today?

HH: Before the reform package – and still – the cost is mostly prohibitive for small businesses. If a person is laid off or divorced, the individual packages are minimal and expensive. Now with reform out there, nobody knows what to do. And they still can’t afford it. My clients have experienced 25 to 45 percent increases this year. Personally, I believe health care is a basic right, just like education. Those of us who want better access just pay for extra health insurance. It has to be disconnected from employment, in my opinion.

Q: What is your most common objection, and how do you overcome it?

HH: “I can’t afford it.” Sometimes I’m able to overcome the objection by looking at their plan and reducing benefits and premium. If possible, I offer them high-deductible health savings account plans. And finally if none of these help, I share stories of clients who didn’t get the health insurance and the things that happened to them. I ask them if they can afford not to have health insurance.

Q: What is the one service, piece of technology, or product that you couldn’t do business without?

HH: There are always workarounds or other options. Email, voice mail, and fax are probably the ones that I couldn’t survive without.

Q: How do you think health care reform will change the future of health insurance?

HH: As it is currently written, I don’t think the effect will be felt for the majority of Americans. I view the latest reform as a baby step along the way.

Q: What advice do you have for other health insurance agents?

HH: Health insurance agents are a commodity. You have to make sure that someone like you isn’t coming in to take your account. Good service and frequent contact with your clients are ways to keep them loyal.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at 800-933-9449 ext. 225 or HTrese@AgentMedia.com.