In 2018, the median insurance agent salary was $50,600. This number is impressive. Yet, it doesn’t provide a full picture of compensation in the insurance industry.
In fact, in the same year, the highest-paid insurance agents earned $77,930, while the lowest-paid earned only $36,040.
Many factors affect the compensation you can expect to enjoy as an insurance agent. However, among the most important is your level of specialization.
Agents who specialize tend to make more than others. Of course, specialization often requires certification.
In the insurance industry, one of the most popular types of specialization begins with AHIP certification. So what is AHIP certification? Why do you need it? How do you get it?
Find answers to these questions and more in this helpful guide.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, is a national trade organization representing the health insurance industry. AHIP members connect individuals, families, and employers with affordable, quality healthcare coverage.
As an advocacy organization, AHIP lobbies for legislative and regulatory policies that increase access to healthcare. Meanwhile, as a professional organization, AHIP offers education and research to promote industry quality and best practices.
AHIP certification is among the organization’s efforts to promote professional standards.
AHIP certification indicates an insurance agent’s training and expertise with Medicare plans. It designates an agent who is capable of selling Medicare plans while complying with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations.
Insurance agents must be AHIP-certified to sell Medicare Advantage (MA) or Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) during the annual enrollment period (AEP).
If you work for an insurance carrier, your employer will require proof of your certification. Individual insurance agencies may also require additional carrier-specific training. If you are an independent agent, your certification assures prospective clients of your expertise.
Thus, AHIP certification increases your own earning potential as an insurance agent. However, the importance of AHIP certification extends beyond the tangible, personal benefits you’ll enjoy. AHIP certification also means that you’re equipped to protect and advocate for your senior clients.
Medicare regulations are updated frequently, so AHIP certification is a yearly process.
Whether you’re applying for the first time or seeking a renewal, successful AHIP certification involves training and testing.
AHIP training involves two courses: Marketing Medicare Advantage and Fraud, Waste, & Abuse (FWA).
The first course will teach you the basics of benefits and eligibility for various MA and PDP plans. You’ll also learn to comply with CMS marketing guidelines and enrollment procedures.
The FWA course highlights the financial and human costs of Medicare fraud while equipping you with tools to detect it.
To access training, first-time users can create an account on the AHIP website. During the registration process, you’ll need your National Producer Number, so be sure to have it handy.
Meanwhile, returning users can log in with their username and password.
New and returning users typically pay about $175 to access the training. However, some insurance carriers offer discounts to agents who seek certification through them. So it’s wise to investigate these options as you begin the process.
Both new and returning users will need to view each of the training modules in its entirety to access the 50-question final exam.
AHIP certification requires a passing score of 90% on this exam. You’ll access the AHIP test through the same portal as the training.
The AHIP test is open-book and based on the materials in the AHIP training courses. However, the AHIP test includes a two-hour time limit, and you’ll be limited to three attempts.
If you fail the test three times, you’ll need to purchase the training course again. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many insurance carriers will refuse to authorize agents who have failed on their first three attempts.
This makes preparing for the test essential to your success.
The fact that there is an AHIP certification process underscores the complexity involved in selling Medicare policies. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success on the AHIP exam.
As a licensed insurance agent, you’ve already tackled a host of academic and professional exams. That means you know what it takes to do well, and you’ve likely honed your study skills. The AHIP exam is one more opportunity to put those skills to use.
As you do, remember some of the basics of good study habits.
First, set aside enough time to read the course materials. For an agent seeking first-time certification, this could mean several hours over a week or more.
Agents seeking to renew their AHIP certification might expect to move through the materials more quickly. However, even experienced agents should carefully review the course materials as CMS regulations change each year.
Second, take notes on the course materials. You can use handwritten notes or a document on your computer, and your notes can take any form. It’s best, though, to organize your notes by topic so that you can quickly access information during the timed exam.
Third, quiz yourself—or enlist a family member or friend to quiz you. Taking the practice tests can also help you gauge your level of preparation.
Preparing for AHIP certification is largely an independent endeavor. However, the best medicare training courses, like Medicare Training 101, enhance your self-study with:
Completing Medicare Training 101 will give you a plan of attack for AHIP certification and increase your chances of passing!
Studying is among the most important ways you can prepare for the AHIP exam. Yet, it’s not the only way. Other factors also affect your success on test day.
These include adequate nutrition and sleep. As you prepare for your exam, take good care of yourself by enjoying healthy meals and snacks. Also, get a good night’s sleep, especially on the night before the test.
Self-care also helps you maintain a positive attitude, which is another factor that can affect your success. If you become discouraged, remember the obstacles you’ve faced—and surmounted—thus far in your career. Then use those past successes to fuel your future.
You became an insurance agent to provide for yourself and your family while helping others. AHIP certification helps you to achieve each of these goals.
With AHIP certification, you’ll have access to a wider range of clients. You’ll also be helping some of the most vulnerable populations gain access to healthcare.
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