Growing older can be a scary part of life. One of the biggest issues people growing older have is navigating the tricky waters of Medicare. Lucky, there is Disability Planners which helps individuals turning 65 find out how to access the insurance plans that will help them in their later years.
Emily La Sage has been a part of the Disability Planners family since January 2019. She took the unlikely path from agriculture to insurance. The move would be awkward for many, but not for La Sage, who found plenty of similarities between the two industries.
La Sage has worked her way up to Public Relations Director in a very short time. Her work speaks for itself as she continues to grow and thrive in the position. La Sage recently spoke to us about her work at Disability Planners, how the company helps clients, and the journey to the company.
Emily, you joined Disability Planners in early 2019 as the company’s Public Relations Director. Can you tell us what led you to the organization?
Prior to coming to Disability Planners I was working for a law firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and assisting clients through the Medicare process after they had won their Social Security Disability cases. That firm had a lot of out of state clients that I could not assist because I was only licensed in the state of Wisconsin at the time. We ended up meeting Disability Planners at an annual Social Security conference and started working with them shortly thereafter in order to assist those out of state clients. They had such a great process that it was a pretty seamless transition for me. For example, an individual agent on their own won’t have the resources and the ability to do the necessary due diligence and homework. There are systems in place for people turning 65 and gain Medicare, however those systems are not set up for those under 65. Disability Planners had put together internal structures to make sure they can get accurate info for the client. The neat thing about Disability Planners is they can verify client info instead of leaving them lost in the dark. I first came on as a contracted agent for Disability Planners and then very quickly transitioned to the Public Relations position. Since I had a similar major in college, they thought I would be the right fit. I still maintain my licenses in both health and life insurance in all 50 states.
Disability Planners has worked with over 370,000 clients since it was established. What does the organization do exactly for its clients?
That number is a little outdated. We have assisted over 474,437 clients! Disability Planners is staffed with about 20 agents that are licensed in all 50 states and contracted with major insurance companies. If a client calls in seeking assistance in finding a plan, the agent walks them through the options available to them. This includes verifying their eligibility with both Medicare and Medicaid to make sure the client isn’t paying more than they need to in health care costs. They take down the list of doctors, specialists, and prescriptions and make sure that their needs are covered under the right plan for them. Finally, if the client agrees on the plan the agent will FedEx the paperwork to them, follow up to see if they have any questions once they receive it, and then have FedEx pick up the paperwork the following day from the client’s house. It takes all the guesswork out of finding the right plan and the assistance is at no cost to them.
How can disabled clients access help from Disability Planners?
Anyone about to receive Medicare benefits whether they are turning 65 or just received their disability benefits can give us a call at 1(800)560-0446 and they will speak to a licensed agent.
What are some of the health and Medicare issues clients face when they contact the organization?
Medicare isn’t just available to people turning 65. It is also available to those who have been considered disabled for 24 months. There are processes in place in the government and within health insurance agencies that once you turn 65, they will be automatically notified and contact you. Those patients who are disabled, however, are often left in limbo or receive poorer Medicare education with inconsistent information. For example, some states will allow supplements, and some will not for people on disability. This critical distinction is often poorly communicated to these patients.
One of the biggest issues we see our clients face is they may have received Medicaid benefits all their life but now they won their Social Security Disability case and must take Medicare. Medicare has a starting premium of $135.50 right now and this price can be extremely intimidating compared to what they might have been paying on Medicaid. What clients don’t always realize is that they might be able to keep both, and we can verify that information for them.
The other huge problem is those who are over 65 have Medicare benefits coordinated while those who are disabled and newly receiving Medicare under 65 do not. This can result in them, for instance, declining their part B premium when they shouldn’t and unintentionally winding up denying all of their Medicare and other health insurance benefits from their previous coverage plan. Whether you are signing up for the first time, want to know when your Medicare eligibility date is, or you just want to switch out of your current plan we can answer those questions and give you peace of mind.
How difficult can navigating Medicare be for those who are not familiar with it?
It can be very confusing and it’s not a one size fits all program. I think when people start to dive in on their own, one of the first things they realize is that plans can be extremely complicated. They can even vary from county to county. On top of that, once they start entering their doctors and their prescriptions, they might find that not everything is covered. What we can do is help you prioritize your healthcare coverage needs and point you in the right direction to the plan that best meets those goals.
Disability Planners recently started a charitable foundation. Can you explain the foundation and what it does to help those in need?
Our Disability Planners Charitable Foundation was a long-time goal for our founder. It gave us an opportunity to make an even bigger impact on our clients outside of their insurance decisions. We have pledged $1 million to go towards not just our clients, but to anyone who is considered disabled and struggling to pay their utility bills. We receive nominations from our staff and the wider community identifying disabled individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. Every month we select several of these nominated individuals and help fund their utility costs. We officially started the charity in April of this year and have so far awarded 27 people in 14 different states. Living on a fixed income with a disability isn’t easy, healthcare costs can add up along with daily expenses. We hope these donations help those in need, and let them know we truly care and want to make an impact. If you know someone who would qualify please reach out at Emily@displanner.com
Emily, you graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2016. How did your employment positions post-university prepare you for your current role?
I majored in Agricultural Business with an emphasis in communications and marketing at the University of Wisconsin- Platteville. During my college career I had a nine-month internship with DuPont Pioneer as their North American Soybean Marketing Intern. This experience gave me the chance to work with a lot of our competitor’s data and transform it into a potential marketing campaign. I still use this experience to look for new opportunities in my current position, helping to identify what we want to work towards from a marketing perspective at Disability Planners. After graduation, I was working an agronomy sales position in Iowa. It was door to door cold calling farmers. I wasn’t from the area; I didn’t know people in the area, and I had little to no connection with the potential clients in the area. This experience was unfiltered and raw because you were face to face and essentially trying to help boost the production of these farms. For anyone who knows farmers, a farm isn’t just a business, it is an incredibly personal thing to them. When I took on the role of a Medicare agent it was similar, a client’s health insurance is going to help them see the doctors they need to see and help them afford the prescriptions they need to survive. Having this understanding of who your client is and what they need is vital for my role of connecting them with the Medicare industry.
You worked in the agriculture industry at one time. It isn’t common to make the jump from agriculture to healthcare and insurance. How difficult was it to transition between the industries?
Like I mentioned previously, they may be two different industries but the act of wanting to serve these clients was the same. Not everyone is going to have the same opportunities, but I still wanted to deliver the best customer service I could and get them the right coverage that they needed. When I transitioned from Agronomy Sales to becoming a Medicare Agent, it took about three full months to gain the education and licenses to start working on my own. I think the hardest part was realizing how many gaps in education there were when it came to disabled citizens receiving Medicare versus the typical 65-year-old. Since many of my clients weren’t 65 this was an uphill battle.
As Public Relations Director, what are some of the tools you use in your work to promote the brand?
We use a lot of Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to educate potential clients about our business. However, a good portion of our clients are older and don’t use a lot of these platforms, so we are also starting to dive into print media as well. When we are building campaigns, we will implement Mail Chimp, Canva, and BeeFree.
What is the most difficult aspect of being a Public Relations Director?
Every month, I go through the nominations that come through our staff and community for the charity. I read every single nomination and it is a real struggle to pick a select few when I wish I could select each person. It is a constant reminder not to take good health for granted.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
We foster failed and kept our cat, Peppermint Patty who was rescued during the hurricanes last year. I think it’s only fair to mention we also have an adorably large hedgehog named, Lil’ Jerry. He isn’t a people person by any means, but his favorite snack is Pepperoni!
What makes you smile?
I get a great feeling when I can give back to programs that made me who I am today. I was a youth 4-H member for 11 years and have been volunteering as an adult leader for five years. I also have a deep love for the fair industry and volunteer my time for the Ozaukee County Fair of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. I grew up in competitive cheerleading and my high school, Kettle Moraine Lutheran of Jackson, Wisconsin, started a Junior Cheer Program that I had the absolute honor of coaching. It is an experience that I hold dear to my heart. Lastly, I am a big sucker for animals and give my time and money to local shelters. I am thankful for all these outlets that I had in my youth and hope that others benefit from these programs as well.
What scares you?
Wasps/hornets and the like. Not to be mistaken with our hard-working honeybees!
Do you have any hobbies?
I firmly believe in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is one of the many ways I bond with my fiancé, Cooper Rapp. We attend a boxing gym four days a week and have each finished a marathon. I also believe in a good balance and compensate all those workouts by being a home chef. We both enjoy learning new techniques in the kitchen and discovering great restaurants when we travel.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing”- Mick Jagger & My Mother
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”- League of their Own
For more information on Emily La Sage and Disability Planners, please visit https://www.disabilityplanners.com/