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My bait guy is king of the tall tale. Not that he makes them up. He just passes them along from other fishermen. I was in his shop the other day picking up my usual two dozen blueback herring for a little striper fishing. We were discussing whether the rain would hold off and where they were hitting. “You better head south toward the dam” he said knowingly. “With all this hot weather we’ve been having, they’re about 50 feet down”. It sounded plausible to my ear as I’m always eager for a good tip when it comes to fishing, but the clincher was his next ramblings. “Yesterday a couple of guys picked up four dozen and caught fish almost every time they lowered down. Good ones too!” That did it, I’d bypass miles and miles of perfectly fishable water right near my lake house to reach the promised land at the south end of the lake. Of course you guessed it, after waking up at 5:00 AM and making the long run to the dam in order to be positioned for action at first light, the fish never materialized. I caught two little keepers the whole morning and scratched my head wondering what happened. I know that stripers are constantly moving, but did they have to pick this day to relocate to another time zone? Then the rain moved in and it was all over, so I ran the 10 miles back to the house in the driving rain. The sky cleared momentarily just as I was coming up to the familiar T1 marker at my cove. A guide was anchored there and his client for the day was into a big fish. “Par for the course,” I muttered to myself.

I ran into my bait guy at the Home Depot a few days later and couldn’t resist bringing up his bum advice. “Ah well,” he mused philosophically, “better luck next time. You know, that front cooled it down some. The fish are up the creeks now. You should have fished shallow. Heck, some of my customers loaded up their boats in Reed’s Creek yesterday. That’s up near you, isn’t it?”

As it is in fishing, so it is in life too. The best made plans often go awry, and listening too much to others doesn’t always pay off. I don’t think you have to be a contrarian, but you do have to follow your own instincts and observations. I’ve sold health insurance for several decades, so I’ve picked up a little experience in recognizing who is likely to become a client and who is passing along tall tales. One of the results of health reform has been a skewing of the purchasing season. Now, the majority of individual sales are made during Open Enrollment period (November 1 – January 31 for 2016). That’s like telling all the fish in the lake that they can only feed for a quarter of the year and telling all the fishermen that their catching season will be reduced to the same. The chaos levels have been raised for both clients and agents. I have my own opinion about the sanity of such an arrangement, but there is no doubt that sales have become more predictable. The “fish” aren’t as scattered as they used to be. There’s a new urgency in the air. Putting off until tomorrow is more dangerous now. Agents are required to retest and credential themselves each year with the Federally Facilitated Marketplace if they plan to assist clients with on-exchange purchases. We start communicating with our clients at the end of the summer in order to prepare them for the shopping experience ahead. In October we start setting up on- the- hour appointments with each of our clients to review their plans. Once the gun goes off, we must make accurate recommendations if shopping proves to be advantageous for them. Then we must assist them with the purchase of their plans.

Dealing with insurance companies used to be difficult enough. Now we must also deal with the Federal government and all that entails. Dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s has become a real adventure. Those who qualify are anxious for their subsidies, but this adds notification responsibilities for both the client and the agent. And since life is constantly changing, clients are starting to realize that any changes to their lives must be reported to the Marketplace or they will suffer the consequences. For three solid months it is pandemonium in our office, working 60 hour weeks to get to every client before the deadline closes. Is this the best way to conduct business? I’ve got my opinion on this too, but at least I know when and where the “fish” are concentrated. The pressure is on to get them all into the boat. We don’t hear the phrase, “better luck next time” very often anymore in our industry, as we used to in normal times. Yes, sales are more predictable now. I don’t have to be quite as astute at sizing up clients and determining who is serious and who is telling tall tales. There isn’t as much time for that anymore, but sometimes I long for the simpler times when agents could afford the luxury of hearing “better luck next time.”