With the advent of the powerful search engines, insurance agents gained a slick marketing tool. You have seen the advertisements, “Get quotes from the top insurance companies with the click of the mouse”. What you may not realize, or have from experience, is that these sites are not insurance companies. They are a collection point for consumer information that is then sold to agencies and agents. Some sites will provide you a comparison of policies and rates right in your browser, which is what you were looking for. The point of these sites is not to sell insurance, most can’t, but to resell your information. That is how they make their money: lead generation for insurance agents.
Full disclosure: I have purchased leads from several of these companies and I intensely dislike the experience. Most of my money was wasted because I refused to hound people for an appointment or honored their intention that they were just window shopping.
These lead generation sites take your information and then resell it again and again to various agencies and agents. Within minutes of your query, you start getting phone calls.
Sometimes these phone calls are welcome, most of the time they are not.
The average price of a health insurance lead I paid for was between $8, for shared leads, and $20 for exclusive leads. If it was a ‘shared’ lead, sold to multiple agents, it could be sold to as many as 5 or 6 different agents. A lead sold 5 times, which is typical, at $8 per agent, make the lead generation site $40 off your information. Five sales equals a miminum of five phone calls to you. Lead costs vary by industry. Insurance products that generate large commissions, like life insurance, will have higher prices to the purchasing agents. Consequently, when an agent purchases a lead they will continue to call, email and write you until you finally say, ‘No, leave me alone.” or change your phone number.
It is hard to resist the allure of getting multiple quotes all in one place without much searching. These lead generation sites pay top dollar to get to the top of your browser screen so you will click on their link. When I had a Google Ad I would have to bid a minimum of $10 to get a high enough rank to get a click on the Google search engine.
Of the hundreds of leads I have purchased for health insurance, most of the people were just window shopping or checking prices. They didn’t want to be bombarded by phone calls from sales people. I actually know of one general agency that has their agents re-call on leads that are months old which is in direct violation of the “Do Not Call” law.
There are occasions, less than 10% in my experience, when the consumer actually wants to talk to an agent. I have been fortunate enough to help some families and individuals select the right health insurance for their situation. But I have also heard the horror stories of overly aggressive agents talking people into products that are just inappropriate at best and unethical at worst. Let’s face it, trying to figure out virtually any type of insurance is akin to being water-boarded.
The absolute worst of the worst is when unscrupulous agents are able to gain access to a person who is ‘uninsurable’ because of a pre-existing condition and desperate for some sort of coverage. These agents will push discount cards, small group associations, indemnity plans and other products that are not creditable health insurance. The end result is the consumer gets talked into purchasing some ‘health’ product that really gives them no real insurance or relief from doctor, laboratory, imaging or hospital bills.
To those of you who have suffered through the nightmare of unending and aggressive sales calls because you unwittingly entered your information into a lead generating insurance website: I am sorry. Those sales people only give the rest of us reputable agents a bad name.
If you are interested in shopping around for quotes or information on any sort of insurance; here are a few tips.
- Stay away from websites that promise multiple quotes. You can’t know which ones are legitimate and which ones are just fronts for lead generation activity by selling your information.
- Get a referral. Call a trusted friend, relative, business associate, or even your current insurance agent, to get the names of reputable agents for products you are looking for. You are more likely to get quality information without getting a pushy, hounding agent trying to sell you some scam discount card.
- Go right to the insurance company website for quotes. When you type in ‘health insurance’ into your web browser, you will get all the major carriers. I know it is a hassle to enter duplicative information in each site, but you will get quality quotes for the type of products you are searching and your information will not be sold.
- Find an independent agent. If you want multiple quotes, an independent agent will usually represent several different carriers. It is pretty easy for an independent to generate a quote from multiple carriers and your information will not be sold.
- If you think you are ‘uninsurable’ for health insurance, fill out an on-line application at a company website. If you are approved, but can’t afford the policy, you can cancel. At least you will know if you can get insurance. While an agent might be able to determine if you can get a policy, only the underwriters at the carrier can make the final decision.
I don’t want to under-rate the value of a competent ethical insurance agent to the consumer. Good agents will get you good information so you can make an educated decision. The internet can provide a wealth of information. Unfortunately, some insurance quoting websites are just a conduit for snake oil salesmen to hound you.