The Making of a Guru Part 2 Cocktails, Divorce and Medicare


My training at Prudential in small group and individual health plans was implausible. At the moment, it was almost like taking orders. You’d explain the advantages and employers would just say, “Sign us up!” The value was excellent, and my book of business grew.

One Sunday afternoon I attended a cocktail party at Stephanie’s work at South County Seniors (SCS). This was an annual event and all of the staff from the Senior Centers in South Orange County attended with their spouses. The director of the organization, Marilyn D., was in attendance without her spouse. Apparently, her and Ken D. were getting a divorce. He was an insurance agent who volunteered time on the San Clemente Senior Center, helping seniors with their medical insurance issues. Marilyn wanted nothing to do with him and invited me to volunteer to assist the seniors. How are you going to say no to that chance? Problem was, I knew nothing about Medicare and there was no web nor many published materials within the early Eighties in regards to the subject.

I did learn of a number of insurance firms that offered Medicare Complement plans and provided training. My typical interview with a senior was my responding, “I do not know, but I’ll discover.” Back then, there have been no Medicare Advantage Plans, no HMO plans and Medicare wouldn’t be covering prescribed drugs for an additional 20 years. I used to be a fast learner, and inside a number of months, I used to be volunteering one full day a month at San Clemente.

Nancy H. was the positioning manager at San Clemente, and he or she was transferred to administer the much larger center in Laguna Hills, just outside the gates of Leisure World. Nancy asked me if I might volunteer time in Laguna Hills like I used to be doing in San Clemente. Now I had two senior centers booking hourly appointments for me.

Meanwhile, Prudential had moved their offices to Laguna Hills as well. Prudential was the insurance company utilized by AARP to offer AARP members their Medicare advantages. It was a closed business, with their products not available to their agents. It was all mail and phone sales with an office in Pennsylvania assisting members.

Sooner or later somewhat old lady got here to the office and needed help. The staff just did not have the guts to send her away, and as they knew I used to be selling Medicare plans on the side (it was allowed), referred her to me. I got a policy for her (with more advantages and lower cost than the AARP plan) and slipped a $50 bill to the secretary who sent me the lead. I don’t imagine there was one other referral sent to Pennsylvania after that day, as my senior book was growing, and I continued handing out $50 bills.

My repute and expertise were growing within the Southern California insurance community. I used to be invited by an organization that represented hospitals and medical groups to do a training on Medicare. After my program, a gentleman approached me who was from a Laguna Beach hospital. That they had a senior program that was not working well, and the insurance company was not paying the hospital nor their doctors. To make a protracted story very short, I took over this system and moved the 300 seniors to a latest plan.

Meanwhile, Nancy had modified employers and was now running the senior program for the City of Mission Viejo, and once more, I used to be asked to volunteer.

Meanwhile, back at Prudential, my group business and individual health business was diminishing. They began raising the costs and becoming less competitive. My time was getting spread too thin.

All my colleagues at mother Pru had business cards printed without spending a dime by the corporate with the office phone number on them. Except me. I had my home phone number printed on my cards, with call forwarding to the office line. After I left Prudential all I did was disconnect the decision forwarding, and I retained all my contacts. I continued to sell individual and small group for other corporations in addition to being an independent contractor for Prudential. In fact, I continued my volunteer work.

I worked from home and had office space in a friend’s secretarial service office after I needed face-to-face time. Most appointments were in people’s homes, and I stayed busy between training my staff on the two hospitals and taking appointments for frail people at their homes slightly than on the Senior Centers.


Harry Thal Insurance may be reached at 760-376-2100.


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