Castle Senior Benefits: Our Story
Wesley C. Mason, founder
Before our agency began:
The roots of our agency began long before we helped the first person turning 65 get set-up with Medicare health plans.
In 1991 I started working with a faith-based healthcare company, New Life Treatment Centers, as a crisis response counselor. In that role I helped people find help for their family members struggling with depression, addictions, and other behavioral issues. We had adolescent and geriatric programs, eating disorder and drug/alcohol treatment centers all over the country. One of my biggest challenges was getting the patient's health insurance company to pay for the treatment they needed. It was my first introduction to the inner workings of insurance, including Medicare. Over the years I went from being a counselor to training them, then moved into management as Vice-President of Operations.
In 2009 I left New Life and launched Castle Senior Benefits, an independent health insurance agency specializing in Medicare benefits.
One thing my work in healthcare taught me more than any other was that health insurance is expensive to have, but difficult and complicated to use. This is especially true when a person becomes eligible for Medicare. Prior to age 65 many have HR departments announcing the benefits for the next year, but once on Medicare you're making your own choices, often for the first time. In the months leading up to age 65 the solicitations spill out of the mailbox, offering lots of sales pitches, but little understanding on how Medicare works. As I began our agency my first goal was to change that.
With that goal of helping people understand how Medicare works, I developed a three page letter and started mailing it to those approaching age 65. The content was simple: educate people on when they do--and don't--need to take Medicare at 65. Most people think everyone has to take Medicare at 65, but that isn't always true. The letter breaks down the options in simple terms, and discusses the deadlines so that Medicare's dreaded late enrollment penalties can be avoided. The goal was to make the letter personal, addressed to each person by name, with first class postage, and no sales pitch of any kind, just a brief offer to answer any questions or assist in any way.
As it turns out, nearly half the people who call our office are surprised when I tell them they do not need to take Medicare at 65, and they should not buy anything from anyone, including me, until they are eligible for a special election for Medicare in later years. For those who do need to take Medicare at 65, I offered help at sorting through the options, and made sure I contracted with every kind of Medicare health plan, and every major insurance carrier, so I could help everyone no matter what plan fit their needs.
I started small and was content to stay that way. But after a few years family members asked to join my agency. My son-in-law, Rory Payne, a high school teacher, was a perfect fit with our mission to make Medicare education our top priority. My sister-in-law, Toni Franklin, joined us as her second career. Her background in benefits administration for two Fortune 500 companies and the US Army was also a good fit for our mission. We've added other family members (my wife, sister, niece, and nephew are also licensed agents) and many others who are not family, but share our goal to help those on Medicare understand their choices before making them.
Never Be Closing:
There is an old cliche in sales, "always be closing." We take the opposite approach: Never Be Closing. There is only one timetable in making any decisions about your Medicare health plan choices: yours. If we are in a meeting and you need time to think about your choices, the only response you will get is "take all the time you need." That tired old sales technique of finding the objection and answering it to "save the sale" during that meeting isn't done around here, and if anyone ever feels like they were pressed, even slightly, to make a decision before taking as much time as needed, I want to know about it (thankfully, no one has ever reported back to me any concerns there, for which I'm grateful).
I sometimes get asked how we came up with the name. I wish it were a more interesting story. As an upstart agency I wasn't sure what to call it, but did know we needed a website. Finding a web address that wasn't already taken proved difficult, but I did find a website dedicated to helping people come up with names for their websites and entered in the keywords "senior" and "benefits." The results produced a lot of names that weren't very good, but Castle Senior Benefits was the best of them, so we went with it. Later I decided "Castle" seemed better suited for an agency offering homeowners rather than health insurance, but it has worked for us.
Where we are today:
Since that first office opened in Dallas, TX we've expanded to Houston and San Antonio, TX, Denver, CO, Phoenix AZ, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK, Atlanta, GA, Indianapolis, IN, as well as Los Angeles and Riverside, CA, and hold non-resident licenses in many other states. We have helped more than 5,000 people make the transition to Medicare and look forward to serving those over age 65 for many years to come.