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Focusing on health insurance
options for
those turning 65 or retiring

Women 'on a mission'

By Kim Lamoreaux  608-393-5777 


June 16, 2015

With a combined 50 years helping Medicare recipients and supplemental insurance customers, long-time friends and colleagues say they are now “on a mission” to help seniors and retirees.


New business partners Trish Vandre of Baraboo, and Deb Harvey of Portage said they have spent too many years seeing older people make the wrong decisions when choosing health insurance coverage.


In May 2015, they started Retirement Specialists LLC to help new retirees navigate the maze of information, jargon and potential confusion surrounding Medicare and help direct them toward the right health insurance taking into account an individual’s financial situation and health conditions as they enter retirement.


Both are trained social workers. Until last month, Harvey and Vandre worked for Sauk County Aging and Disability Resource Center where they had worked together as legal advocates.


They left their jobs last month to embark on a new business, where they agreed they could help people more thoroughly by going into private practice.


“People nearing retirement get inundated with information about Medicare and insurance policies and Part D plans, and no matter what their business was, they are not experts in this,” Vandre said. “We’ve all spent 20-plus years working with older people in the areas of Medicare and all things health insurance.”


Harvey said that in her years of working for the county, she wasn’t able to refer older people to what she believed would be the best health insurance plans available. ADRC workers are able to help seniors navigate Medicare, but cannot recommend one private insurance plan over another. 


“I’d have to say to them, ‘You really have to go look in the phone book or find an agent,’” Harvey said. “The hard part for me was once people get past that six months of getting Medicare, they’re under this false impression they can come and go out of health insurance, and you can’t.”  That’s because a new health insurance provider requires a health questionnaire, the results of which can be used to deny coverage. 


After partnering with her colleague, Harvey said she has the freedom to advise clients to choose an insurance plan like Physicians Mutual.  “It’s A-plus rated,” Harvey said. “I can’t say enough about it. It’s the on-going service, and we’re right here. We don’t take the money and run.” 


Selling insurance plans may be the bread and butter of their business, but they say they perform a lot of pro bono work because Medicare is so confusing to new retirees. 


Vandre said they strive to take the time and explain to people what it means to sign up for Medicare for the first time, and to talk about why they are such believers in Physicians Mutual for health care benefits in retirement. 


“They have quality products and amazing service,” Vandre said. “They’re a mutual company, so every policy holder is a member, like a co-op. The company puts preventive care first, and they invest in preventive care.”  Harvey said it’s also affordable. 


“In the 21 years I’ve done this job, I have never seen an insurance company go down in rates and Physicians Mutual [premiums] went down seven percent this year,” Harvey said.   



This article appeared in the June 17, 2015 editions of the Capital Newspapers publications including the WI State Journal.  This version has been edited for legal reasons.

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