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Agent Sales News
Not just any hospital: a Blue Distinction Center hospital
September 29, 2014
When quality is a priority, it’s smart to rely on data that’s accurate, objective and relevant. That’s the thinking behind the Blue Distinction Specialty Care Program. Started in 2006 by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), the program uses an evidence-based approach to help people choose a medical facility for six key types of care:
- bariatric surgery
- cardiac care
- complex and rare cancers
- knee and hip replacement
- spine surgery
Together, these types of care comprise more than 30 percent of today’s total inpatient hospital expenditures. The program is a significant differentiator for Florida Blue and serves as a positive example of the company’s commitment to help members and employers identify high-quality providers based on empirical data.
Blue Distinction designations rely on objective, nationally consistent selection criteria to identify high-performing specialty care facilities that can help support a smooth recovery for members to regain health and productivity. Facilities that earn the designations have a proven track record for delivering better results—including fewer complications and re-admissions—than hospitals without these recognitions.
There are two types of Blue Distinction Center designations:
- Blue Distinction Centers (BDCs) demonstrate expertise in delivering specialty care.
- Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) demonstrate both expertise plus cost-efficiency in delivering specialty care.
BDC and BDC+ information is integrated into the existing BCBSA national provider directory. Florida Blue members can look for the distinctive icons next to the hospital facility name on the Florida Blue provider directory. The information is also available through the Blue Distinction Center Finder, a web tool that helps national consumers and their physicians find Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ nationwide.
5 ways to improve sales perfomance
September 29, 2014
If you sell insurance products, chances are you’ve made your share of missteps—and learned from them. If you supervise salespeople, chances are they’ve done the same. Instead of everyone learning the same lessons the hard way for themselves, here are five of the most common learning opportunities that can be taken to heart without actually suffering the consequences. Learn these techniques now and you and your team can avoid confusing, alienating or losing customers.
- Be authentic, always. Relationships are built on trust. If there’s a gap between your product’s features and your client’s needs, acknowledge it. Look for ways to work out the differences. If the gap is minor, find ways to illustrate how insignificant it is. But never ever sell dishonestly; take advantage of someone’s ignorance, or dismiss a prospect’s sincere or well-founded concerns.
- Know when to move on: Nobody can sell everything to everybody. Not every prospect is a good fit. Learn to prioritize your sales effort. Recognize when you’re barking up the wrong tree, make the best of it and move on to the next prospect. That requires integrity, honesty and a positive attitude. That prospect who didn’t buy may be able to steer you toward someone who will.
- Talk less, listen more: Lots of sales professionals spend 90 percent of their selling time talking. After all, you’ve got a great product to sell, with lots of advantages. Better to re-allocate that ratio in the client’s favor. Spend about 70 percent of your face time listening. And the 30 percent left over for talking should be focused on asking questions. This is especially true for first-time encounters with prospects whose priorities and businesses are unfamiliar to you.
- Be the expert in the room: Prospects often enter problem-solving mode without knowing the landscape, the available options or the real reasons for their issues. They just want it fixed. As the sales person, you’re the expert. You’ve got the knowledge about the industry and the marketplace. You’re the one who can spot potential pitfalls and identify options the client may be unaware of. Deploy that expertise in ways that add value to your relationship. This technique is useful in any scenario, and particularly when interacting with existing clients who already have some degree of trust in you and your agency.
- Leave consulting to consultants: You’re there to sell. Not consult. So temper the advice to be the expert with sensible limits. If you’ve got a prospect who clearly has no interest in buying, you’re under no obligation to keep sharing your hard-earned knowledge. Be selective about who’s allowed to pick your brain for free. That way you can focus your energy on prospects who are really prospects.
With a little reflection you can see these are common techniques that often get overlooked—by sales rookies and veterans alike. Keep them in mind, and encourage your team to do the same, and see if your numbers don’t improve.
Use BluesEnroll to benefit your group customers
September 22, 2014
Make the most of your experience with BluesEnroll, Florida Blue’s online enrollment tool. A few helpful tips:
- Accuracy: Make sure the member’s information is correct. That goes for hire date, social security number, date of birth, and other critical details. Accurate member information helps avoid claims discrepancies, and other potential coverage issues. If you do catch a mistake after submitting information, contact the Agent Service Center at (800) 267-3156 as soon as possible to have it corrected.
- Enable employee self-service by emailing BluesEnrollMigration@floridablue.com. This feature lets you keep all your administrative capabilities for a particular group while it reduces the pressure on open enrollment. With self-service enabled, employees can
- use single sign-on from the Florida Blue member website
- enroll for benefits
- update personal information
- obtain their own history tracking report or changes
- view and print a list of current benefit elections
- Training resources: Check out the training videos at the start page of the BluesEnroll website. Topics include adding new employees, initiating enrollment, adding life events, handling terminations and more. You can also sign up for online training courses.
Following these easy tips will ensure you get the most from BlueEnroll.
3 ways agents can help with wellness
September 22, 2014
In today’s proactive health care economy, wellness programs stand front and center on the employee benefits stage. The programs have your clients’ attention because they’re cost-effective, and they can produce a wide range of beneficial results.
Your clients know two basic facts about wellness: chronic health conditions like diabetes and COPD can drive up costs, and wellness programs can play a key role in driving costs down by preventing and mitigating health risks. Those same clients look to benefit advisors like you to provide additional details and context. That creates a very real opportunity for you to add value and boost your own business. Here are some ways you can be a resource for your clients on the topic of employee wellness:
- Help them get started: Like any first-time effort, clients who want to start a wellness program from scratch will lack understanding. Serve as a guide. Help them understand how a program can benefit their workforce. Help them develop a strategy that’s efficient and responsive to their specific needs. With your help the client can have a great foundation for a successful employee wellness program.
- Decide on goals: You’ve had more experience with wellness programs than the client just starting out. So help them set goals that are measurable, realistic, attainable, and aligned with the company’s broader vision. With your guidance, the client can operate with reliable information that can help keep them competitive.
- Be part of the feedback loop: Once the wellness program is up and running, help your client analyze the metrics. Help them figure out the ROI so they can tweak the program as needed. And keep them looped in on additional wellness education and training opportunities.
When you think about it, helping clients launch their own wellness program is a win-win scenario. Your clients (and their employees) get programs that are better designed. You get new business opportunities and a closer connection with your clients.
Florida Blue offers an award-winning wellness program, Better You from Blue. Just contact your Florida Blue representative for more information.
Top 10 employee questions about ACA
September 15, 2014
Questions abound about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and inquiring minds want to know. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans recently surveyed 600 employers to find out which questions employees ask most often.
Here’s a useful summary you can share with your group’s HR staff who field inquiries from their employees. It identifies the top 10 questions from employees—and basic answers that can help benefit professionals be prepared:
- How does a Health Insurance Exchange work? Most states, including Florida, use the federal Marketplace (healthcare.gov), and other states have their own. It lets employees shop for plans that have the features and benefits they like best, and all employees can use it. Some employees may qualify for a subsidy, depending on a variety of factors.
- How does the ACA affect individual employees? It requires individuals to have health insurance or pay a penalty. If the employer offers insurance that satisfies the ACA’s requirements, employees don’t have to take any further action to be compliant.
- What are the cost implications for employees? It depends on the premiums and cost-sharing details of the plans available and their location.
- Is the employer going to drop existing coverage? That’s a decision each employer makes. If they do, employees will be able to purchase it on the exchange and may qualify for a subsidy.
- Will the ACA result in different benefits? To comply with the law’s requirements, most plans did make changes in benefits in 2014—or will be modifying plans in 2015. This is different for every employer, and HR professionals will need to be prepared with the reasons.
- How long can children stay on employees’ plans? The ACA requires that coverage must be available for dependent children until age 26. This requirement went into effect in 2010 and has not changed.
- When is the next open enrollment period for the federal Marketplace? It starts Nov. 15, 2014 and ends Feb.15, 2015.
- What about the required 30 hours per week needed to qualify for coverage next year? An employee’s hours determined by management and the HR department. If an employee doesn’t qualify for employer-offered health insurance, he or she can still obtain it through the exchange starting in November and may qualify for a federal subsidy to help pay the premiums.
- Are spousal and dependent coverage still available under the employer plan? Spousal coverage is not required, but companies have the option to offer it. Employers are required to offer coverage for dependent children until the age of 26.
- What will be the impact of ACA on the company? Employees should consult with management for a consistent answer to this question. If you know for sure that no immediate drastic changes are being considered, it’s a good idea to share that with employees.
Employers that will no longer be providing workplace coverage can help their employees by recommending an agent to provide assistance or by referring the employee to FloridaBlue.com for help finding an individual plan.
Florida Blue supports education on advance directives
September 15, 2014
As a service to members and all Floridians, Florida Blue participates in a state initiative to educate people on the need for health care advance directives. These important legal documents establish a person’s preferences about health care decisions if he or she becomes incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves.
With a health care directive in place, a person can alert family members, doctors and health care facilities about their health care desires ahead of time. Four types of advance directives are recognized in the state of Florida:
- Living will: instructions that specify what actions should be taken if someone is no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity
- Health care surrogate designation: names a specific person to act as surrogate, empowered to make health care decisions on behalf of someone while they are incapacitated
- Durable power of attorney: designates a specific person as attorney-in-fact, empowered make all decisions (including medical and financial) on behalf of someone who is incapacitated
- Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order: a legal order to respect the wishes of a patient who decides not to undergo life-support procedures
Members can access legal documents online at FloridaBlue.com under Member Forms, which also contains a link to the Florida Agency for Health Care Information for life planning information—or by accessing WebMD through the member website.
By supporting this statewide education initiative, Florida Blue encourages all Floridians to discuss their wishes with others, such as family members, friends, doctors and spiritual counselors. It’s a public service that reflects on Florida Blue’s commitment to health care throughout the state.
Most Medicaid recipients transitioned to managed care
September 08, 2014
After experimenting since 2005 with managed care models for Medicaid recipients, Florida is transitioning nearly all its 3.6 million recipients into managed care plans. The effort, lawmakers believe, will cut costs. The rollout process, staggered across the state’s 11 Medicaid districts and managed by the Agency for Health Care Administration, is expected to be completed in August.
Some of you may receive questions about this, because over the last several months, state authorities have been mailing welcome letters informing Medicaid recipients about their choices. Recipients are matched with an available plan that appears to best meet their medical needs and can choose the plan suggested or may choose from a list of other plans available in his or her district. Specialty plans are available for patients with qualifying distinct diagnoses and/or chronic conditions.
Nearly all of Florida’s Medicaid recipients will be moved in phases to private insurers. Most recipients are required to choose from a list of available managed care organizations—generally HMOs and Provider Service Networks (PSNs)—that meet state-mandated minimum standards of coverage; many of the plans cover additional services.
The new system, called Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) uses a capitation model in which managed care companies receive a flat fee for each participant enrolled. Medicaid recipients have 30 to 60 days to finalize their plan selection. There’s also a 90-day grace period in which recipients may revise their selection if they wish.
Choice counselors are available to guide Medicaid recipients through the plans available in each district. Recipients can receive guidance and make their selections by phone, in person or at the program’s counseling website.
For eligibility and participation requirements, covered benefits and provider details, click here. More information is available at the SMMC website.
Important reminder about lab services
September 08, 2014
Florida Blue is on a quest to keep agents, employers and members informed about where to go for lab services. Please share this information with clients:
- Within Florida: Quest Diagnostics is the preferred lab for members of Florida Blue and members of other Blue Plans who require lab services while in the state. Members who use a non-network lab will have higher out-of-pocket expenses.
- Outside Florida: Members accessing lab services outside Florida may choose Quest Diagnostics if a local facility is available—or may choose a laboratory that participates in Florida Blue’s BlueCard National or BlueCard Worldwide network. It is the member’s responsibility to verify that the laboratory is in the BlueCard network before receiving services (except in an emergency). To find participating laboratories outside Florida, members can call the BlueCard Customer Service Center at 1-800-810-BLUE (2583). If calling from outside the U.S., Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, they may call collect 1-804-673-1177, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This information is also in Agent Bulletin #A14-158.
Strategies for managing feedback on social media
September 01, 2014
One of the challenges to social media like Facebook and Twitter revolves around disgruntled users. If your agency has a following, sooner or later someone is going to say something negative—whether it’s warranted or not.
Since you can’t guarantee a total absence of negative comments, handling them requires planning, consistency and clear-headed thinking. Try these tips to improve your social media management:
- Triage: Sort feedback into four basic groups: urgent, helpful, disgruntled and spam. Acknowledge the first three types promptly and appropriately, and resolve them in a reasonable timeframe.
- Plan: The person who monitors your social media should be able to pass urgent and helpful issues (like tech problems or confusing language) along to the appropriate person so they can be addressed immediately. Identify the go-to people for resolving each type of drop-what-you-re-doing issue and prepare them.
- Respond: Thank the people who identify a tech issue or suggest a better way to do things. For those who complain, it’s best to calibrate your response. If they have a legitimate complaint and present it reasonably, apologize, fix it and follow-up. If the person is unreasonable or clearly trying to pick a fight, it may be better to ignore than engage. If feedback is spam, ignore it.
- Attitude: Be patient and helpful in your responses, looking for opportunities to improve your social media presence, turn a dissatisfied customer or prospect around, or cement an already productive relationship. Even when dealing with irrational people, keep it respectful and leave emotions out of it.
- Remember your audience: When responding in a public forum to an individual issue, always remember that your entire following is watching. Use your responses to make allies and advocates of your readers. If feedback contains identifiable information, like a policy number or HIPAA-related data, take the conversation offline and explain why.
With the right attitude and procedures in place, you can master social media feedback and use it to your agency’s advantage.
Source: Simply Measured
Employer groups can get onsite flu vaccinations
September 01, 2014
Here’s a major benefit for many of your employer groups: As a Florida Blue participating provider, Maxim Health will be available to conduct onsite flu vaccinations September 10 - January 31.
- Each employer location must have a minimum of 30 participants
- Employees who are Florida Blue members present their member ID card at the vaccination event
- Non-member employees and family members (age 4 and older) can participate at a cost of $25 (cash, check or money order accepted)
- Flu vaccines are a covered benefit
- No copay or deductible on preventive services
- All claims are filed by Maxim Health through Availity. This eliminates the need for roster or invoice billing.
To arrange for an onsite vaccination event, refer to Agent Bulletin #A14-182, complete the Florida Clinic Request Form, and submit it as directed. The Bulletin also has helpful clinic scheduling guidelines.
Geraghty pleased with first-year ACA enrollment despite challenges
August 25, 2014
Florida Blue CEO, Patrick Geraghty, expressed his satisfaction with the results of the ACA’s first-year enrollment numbers, which added 339,000 Florida Blue customers through the Marketplace, according to a Kaiser Health News article.
Geraghty said the surge in membership produced fewer young, healthy enrollees along with a higher than expected demand for expensive health care services. About 23 percent of Florida Blue’s exchange buyers were young adults in the 18-to-34 category. While that figure was expected to be lower than the national average (28 percent) because of Florida’s older population, it was still below the company’s projections.
“It’s a concern certainly, as any market would want lower-age healthier individuals … because it balances the risk pool,” Geraghty said.
Overall, Florida Blue, noted as one of the most fiscally stable health insurers in the country, has about a 40 percent share of the total individual state insurance market (On and Off Marketplace).
Although one-third of Florida consumers––nearly one million people––chose Florida Blue when shopping on the exchange, several factors could still exert upward pressure on rates next year.
While proposed 2015 rates are not yet revealed, several factors could drive up rates next year—including the law’s requirement for younger adults: that the oldest person buying coverage pay no more than three times the rate paid by the youngest enrollee.
“We will be under tremendous financial pressure initially given the age, risk profile and high utilization of the new membership,” Geraghty said. “It is far from clear that large enrollment in the marketplace is a financially beneficial place to be.”
Read the full article.
5 client service traits you’ll want more of
August 25, 2014
In any insurance agency, your most reliable source of growth is referrals from existing clients. The best route to achieving a high rate of referrals is by delivering consistently excellent client service. And for that commodity your agency depends on the key players on your team.
Fortunately, the industry’s top client service performers have certain things in common—attributes you can either look for when interviewing job candidates or instill in your team members once they’re onboard. Either way, these are the qualities you want more of. Because the more client service people you have with these qualities, the better your agency will do:
- They never judge: Client service stars take people as they are, on their own terms, without trying to change them. They leave their personal opinions at the door and avoid discussing their own personal views with others. And when a client or prospect crosses the line, the real rock stars know never to react.
- They hold themselves accountable: Consistently excellent client service depends on self-knowledge—on leading with your strengths and resolving to improve in other critical areas. A star performer avoids making excuses when things don’t go as hoped and will never blame a client, even when others might. Taking responsibility for mistakes—and fixing them thoroughly and promptly—sits much better with a client than finger-pointing.
- They manage their emotions well: The best client service people stay focused on their clients’ needs—not their own. They stay positive and composed, without getting defensive in the face of negativity or taking a client’s foul mood as a personal affront. And they have the smarts to realize that they have the power to turn any unpleasant client situation around, simply by controlling their own emotions.
- They focus on solutions: When presented with a challenge from a client or prospect, great client service people keep their eyes on finding a solution, even if it takes some hard work and creativity. This is distinctly different from simply making the problem (or the problem client) disappear. Instead, they use every resource at their disposal to find a way to meet the challenge—even if it means re-framing the problem or focusing on alternatives the client hadn’t considered before.
- They take responsibility for doing good work: When top performers commit to doing something for a client, they make a priority of following through. They meet deadlines they’ve agreed to, and they supply all the information a client needs to move to the next step—even if the information isn’t what the client hoped for. The best people take responsibility for delivering less-than-ideal news gracefully and in the best possible light.
By focusing on these five proven indicators of top client service performers, you can help your agency get to the next level, and the ones after that.
Source: Think Advisor
Florida Blue Health Care Reform site
August 18, 2014
With all the nuances of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you or your clients may have questions at one point or another. Save time researching and add value for your clients. Florida Blue has the answers you need on floridabluehealthcarereform.com.
Do your group or individual clients have ACA questions? They can submit them directly to Florida Blue ACA team experts by clicking on Ask a Question at the bottom of the page on along with answers to frequently asked questions, videos, resources and a subsidy estimator.
All agents should continue to call (800) 267-3156 to speak with a representative in the Agent Service Center with any questions.
Under the Resources for professionals tab, you will find the “For agents” and “For employers” sections. The agent section provides information on Medical Loss Ratio, Summary of Benefits and Coverage and more.
Florida Blue is here for you.
2015 Marketplace rates released
August 18, 2014
Following up on CEO Patrick Geraghty’s recent interview with Kaiser Health News (KHN), Florida Blue has released 2015 rates for plans available through the federal Marketplace. In his original interview, Geraghty discussed a number of factors pointing to the possibility of higher rates.
Part two of the interview, published on August 1 indicates rates will go up by an average of 17.6 percent, an increase Geraghty characterized as “typical” and “not aberrant.” We informed you of this directly and provided you with talking points on Aug. 1 in Agent Bulletin #A14-193.
The increase is largely driven by demographics of the insurance pool, including older adults who previously lacked coverage and are using more services than expected. In addition, nearly 90 percent of Floridians who bought coverage on the Marketplace get a federal subsidy to lower their share of the premium.
“No one can claim in good conscience that a 10 percent rate increase or more would signal the advent of something new and unprecedented,” said Greg Mellowe, policy director of consumer group Florida CHAIN. “For years, this was standard practice in Florida.”
Geraghty said he’s unsure if the latest round of price increases will lead people to drop coverage. “It depends on how much value they place in what they are receiving,” he said.
About a dozen carriers will be competing in the individual health insurance market next year in Florida. Currently, Florida Blue is the only carrier to offer insurance plans in all 67 counties. Another advantage is its 18 walk-in Florida Blue Centers, which will host enrollment seminars and offer face-to-face service for members and potential new customers. This year, the retail locations hosted over 3,000 seminars during the open enrollment period.
But rates are not the whole story. A person’s individual situation will be the key driver of price. Simply looking at the average premiums will not show the wide-ranging prices members could potentially pay based on what products they choose to purchase as well as their current personal health care needs.
Tips to get your emails opened
August 11, 2014
In 2013, the number of emails sent and received worldwide averaged 180 billion per day. Unlike a traditional mailbox, an email inbox can hold a virtually limitless number of these files.
As a receiver of emails, you face the daunting task of sorting through your share of those 180 billion attempts to touch your world. You’ll probably separate them, possibly with the help of a filtering system, into three groups: junk, non-urgent emails you’ll want to read later, and those that require your immediate attention.
As a sender of emails, your agency must cope with this ritual—and take steps to raise the chance that your outgoing email will get opened, read and acted on.
Even if you’re just sending out a newsletter that recipients have already opted to receive, bear in mind that those same recipients have probably opted to receive lots of other newsletters. If email in any form is part of your marketing plan, making the content relevant and useful is obviously a top priority. But getting it opened is a prerequisite.
That’s the job of the subject line.
Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes—because you often are. You’re scanning a whole inbox full of unopened emails, looking first for reasons to delete, with nothing more than the subject line to base your decision on. So as a marketer, it pays to write subject lines that scream “Open Me!” Here are a few tips:
- Arouse curiosity: Phrase your subject line in a way that grabs attention. Include a how-to. Or a numbered list (5 reasons to…). If you deploy this tactic, be sure the actual email pays off on the implied promise. Otherwise, you’ll lose credibility—and readership.
- Add urgency: If the content is time-sensitive in any way, capitalize on it. Don’t use this technique too often or you’ll turn readers off. But if an honest and meaningful deadline is coming up, lead with that.
- Be unique: Study the subject lines of your competitors—not so you can copy them but so you can differentiate yourself from them. Tease or excite the reader with something the other guys don’t use. An offer, or maybe a different spin on your agency’s service.
- Try some humor: People don’t expect to be entertained while engaged in an activity as mundane as sorting through emails. Funny or clever subject lines, maybe with a twist on words or a turn-of-phrase, get opened because they’re unexpected. And a good chuckle is always appreciated.
- Focus on one compelling element: Your email content has lots of elements. Don’t try to cover them all in a single subject line. Pick the one aspect of your email that’s most compelling and easiest to state, and make that the hero. Simple is better. With a large enough database, you could pick two or three areas of focus to test against each other, so you can see what works best.
- Connect with the recipient: You and your client or prospect are similar in many ways. You’re both concerned with insurance benefits, you both follow the same industries and keep an eye out for ways to deliver quality and value. Acknowledge your alike-ness in the subject line.
- Write like you talk: To connect with your clients and prospects, speak their language. Write subject lines that sound engaging and conversational, not stodgy or jargon-y.
- Always be truthful: People know when they’ve been snookered or misled—even inadvertently. So be sure your content delivers what your subject line says it will.
- Skip the hard sell: Remember, the job of the subject line is to get the recipient to open the email. If the subject line sounds sales-y, it’ll get deleted instantly.
Do you need to use all these tips in every outgoing email? Of course not. But keep them in mind next time you engage your email marketing machine. And get ready for a measurable boost in response.
ICD-10 work continues
August 11, 2014
Despite federal legislation last April requiring a delay in implementation, Florida Blue is still preparing to adopt ICD-10 (the tenth revision of the standard medical diagnosis and inpatient procedure codes). With all the work accomplished so far, Florida Blue is maintaining its forward momentum and working with providers and other external stakeholders to ensure they do the same.
As a result, Florida Blue remains on track to be ICD-10 ready this year, even though implementation will be delayed until at least October 1, 2015. External testing with willing providers is continuing as they submit their ICD-10-coded claims for processing in a test environment.
To ensure a smooth transition and avoid business disruptions once ICD-10 is implemented, Florida Blue is continuing to collaborate with providers, other payers and stakeholders and keeping them informed through several channels, including:
- organized medicine events and activities
- monthly teleconferences and podcasts
- social media
- ongoing ICD-10 end-to-end testing with participating providers
We will keep you informed.
Providing your groups with wellness programs
August 04, 2014
The results are in: Selling wellness is no cakewalk for benefit advisers. Employee Benefit Advisor (EBA) surveyed 150 industry professionals, mostly agents and consultants, earlier this year to come up with its first-ever benchmark study on workplace wellness programs. One striking fact: Nearly a third of respondents (32 percent) don’t even offer wellness programs to their clients or don’t know if their clients are working with a program vendor.
Broadly speaking, the survey found that large employers demand innovation and a custom-tailored approach to wellness programs; smaller employers still require convincing that the programs are a good investment. The most important wellness plan issues for employers, according to the respondents, include:
- educational tools that are easy for employees to use
- significant return on investment
- program cost overall
- tools for maximizing employee engagement
- creating a wellness culture
- availability of health coaching resources
The nationwide survey listed the most popular plan vendors chosen by advisors; these included WebMD Health Services, along with several others. Choosing a quality program is critical. According to one respondent, any well-designed wellness program should include these key features:
- a web-based platform with a secure portal for members
- a solid communication and roll-out plan with management buy-in
- a suite of tools for administrative management
- capability for reporting individual risk
- tools to educate employees and help them set goals
- structured incentives to maximize enrollment
- a health risk assessment (HRA) tool that’s accredited
- tools for program management
- suggestions for team challenges
- tools to track employee participation in activities and events
- capability for tracking group progress
Florida Blue has partnered with WebMD Health Services to provide tools focused on improving the health and wellness of groups’ employees. With WebMD, employees will have the tools they need to make better health and benefits decisions, positively change their health behavior, and live a healthier life.
What to do about the 32 percent of survey respondents that stand outside the wellness space? The survey results included some insights and possible explanations. Some brokers that don’t offer wellness programs:
- might be reluctant to invest the time needed to become wellness experts
- might assume it’s unprofitable to offer wellness programs
- might not realize that competitors could gain an advantage by offering a quality wellness program
To help agents stay ahead of the competition, Florida Blue offers Better You from Blue, an award winning, interactive, incentive based, wellness program available to qualifying large groups. Later this year, Better You from Blue will expand to include small groups and we will keep you informed when it becomes available.
Source: Employee Benefit News
Closing the communications loop
August 04, 2014
If you manage an insurance sales team—or if you’re part of one—regular ongoing communication is critical to the team’s success––and your own. Like other processes inside every sales organization, it’s important to close the communications loop.
If you’re a manager, you want to know—need to know—the status of individual projects and initiatives at any given time. Yet it’s difficult to get sales people to communicate regularly about project status. And when you ask, team members might interpret it as nagging, even though that’s not your intent. Closing this loop requires proactive thinking. That’s what great communicators do.
Communicating proactively means explaining to individual sales team members why you need regular updates in the first place—even if the update is that there’s no new information. You don’t need updates because you like looking over every team member’s shoulder. It’s because the information helps you stay on top of the larger sales effort. And because you may be able to provide and assist. If a team member is stuck, you can’t help if you don’t know your help is needed. If a particular team member is particularly resistant to providing updates, dig deeper. Identify the issue and address it head on.
If you report to a manager, you can close the communications loop in the same way: by acting proactively. If your sales manager or team leader has been tracking you down every Friday for months to get your status updates, it’s a safe bet you’ll get the same request next Friday. So take the initiative, anticipate the question, save your manager the effort of tracking you down, and let the person know where things stand.
If your boss likes weekly updates, keep a tickler file of odds and ends to include when it’s time to do your report. Put it on your calendar. When you reach a milestone in a long-term effort, send a note then and there. When things go well at a client meeting, consider firing off a quick email or picking up the phone. Even if you encounter an unexpected obstacle, let your manager know. He or she may be able to help you work around it.
Unsure whether a development requires a special mention or it can wait till the next general status update? You might want to err on the side of too much information. If that becomes a problem, you’ll hear about it. Communication is good and contributes to team success.
Sales conversion techniques
July 28, 2014
It takes a lot of planning, execution and effort to drive traffic to your agency’s website. But as many businesses are learning, more traffic doesn’t always translate into higher sales volume. So it’s a good idea to pay attention to your conversion rate—the total number of website visitors compared to the number of visitors who take a desired action (purchase, sign up for a newsletter, request a quote or whatever you want visitors to do).
To beef up your conversion rate, to turn passive website viewers into engaged purchasers, consider these tips from conversion marketing experts:
You may not see an increase in traffic to your website, but when you follow these simple tips you’ll see a big jump in conversions and sales.
HHS report highlights Marketplace effectiveness
July 28, 2014
A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirms that the federally facilitated health insurance exchange, known as the Marketplace, is doing a good job of providing consumers with more affordable health insurance choices.
The June 2014 report, uses data from the 36 states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, choosing instead to let residents purchase health insurance through the federal Marketplace. People who purchased coverage through the Marketplace “paid an average of $69 per month after tax credits for silver plans and had, on average, a choice of five health insurers and 47 plans.”
The study found that states, on average, had 10 “rating areas” (i.e., separate geographical markets). Some smaller states had only one rating area; Florida was identified as the state with the most rating areas: 67 (the same number of counties in the state).
The rating areas with the largest number of issuers (an indicator of consumer choice) were located in New York and Oregon; the rating areas with the most plans available (another choice indicator) were located in Wisconsin and Florida.
Among the other findings in the report:
- Overall, consumers were able to choose from five health insurers and 47 Marketplace plans.
- An increase of one issuer in a rating area is associated with four percent decline in the second-lowest cost silver plan premium, on average.
- People who selected silver plans, the most popular plan type in the federal Marketplace, paid an average premium of $69 per month after accounting for tax credits available under the Affordable Care Act.
- Sixty nine percent of enrollees who qualified for tax credits selected Marketplace plans with premiums of $100 a month or less; 46 percent of those who qualified for tax credits had premiums of $50 a month or less.
- Nearly 70 percent of consumers who signed up for Marketplace coverage are paying $100 or less for that coverage, thanks to the availability of tax credits.
- Overall, tax credits reduced the average monthly premium from $346 to $72–– accounting for a 76 percent decrease.
The report’s authors say the data demonstrates that tax credits are working as intended to make health insurance affordable for consumers and that the Marketplace has succeeded in spurring competition for health insurance.
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services
Free fitness program at Florida Blue Centers
July 21, 2014
Color Me Fit is a new 6-week health program developed to give members added-value with their Florida Blue health plan.
During the program members:
- Discover their unique color-coded fitness personality
- Understand why they’re drawn to certain activities/environments and avoid others
- Learn how to use their fitness color to make better choices for their personality
- Add physical activity to their lifestyle to create an exercise program they’ll never quit
Color Me Fit will be offered at select Florida Blue Centers for 60 minutes, once a week beginning on the following dates:
Tampa, Sarasota, Pensacola and Winter Haven: Program starts July 21, 10 a.m.; Winter Park starts July 29, 11 a.m.
There is no cost to attend. Members must be 18 years or older to participate. Color Me Fit does not include physical activity as part of the sessions. No special clothing or shoes are required. Members can register online or by calling
1-877-FL-BLUE-O (1-877-352-5830). Registration is required.
Voicemail as a sales tool
July 21, 2014
It happens to every insurance agent, no matter how successful, established or confident, when prospecting for new business: voicemail. And its companion, the unreturned call. It’s frustrating, difficult to manage logistically, and can shake your confidence.
There’s a way to mitigate it and convert more prospecting voicemails into actual conversations with actual prospects. In a nutshell, use voicemail to your advantage by building suspense. Here’s a three-step approach that’s designed to be implemented over the course of a five-day workweek:
Step 1—Monday: Leave a short first message that intrigues and asks nothing of the prospect. Introduce yourself and say you’re calling because so-and-so at such-and-such company asked you to call because you helped them achieve a successful outcome that’s relevant (a reduction in benefits costs, for example, or a way to increase employee satisfaction without increasing costs). Say you’ll call back on Wednesday at a specific time. Do not leave a callback number. This removes any follow up burden from the prospect and places it squarely on your own shoulders. All the prospect needs to do is anticipate your callback on Wednesday.
Step 2—Wednesday: If you get the prospect’s voicemail, leave a follow up message: Introduce yourself, remind the prospect you had committed on Monday to call back, and repeat about the success you achieved with so-and-so at such-and-such. This time, make it a little more compelling: It would be smart for us to connect so you can learn more about how we achieved the successful outcome [you described on Monday]. Again, don’t leave a callback number and don’t ask the prospect to do anything. Commit to calling back Friday at a specific time.
Step 3—Friday: If your call rolls to voicemail, leave a final message: Introduce yourself and remind that you’d promised to call back. It’s a shame you’ve been unable to connect. Maybe the prospect is busy achieving their next successful outcome, or maybe you’re calling at the wrong times. This time, leave your number. And end with another callback commitment: If you don’t hear back in a week, you’ll call again soon.
Sales prospecting requires persistence. If you haven’t heard in a little more than a week (and you may not), keep working on it. Keep calling and, if needed, leaving messages with incrementally more compelling outcomes you’ve been able to achieve with other clients. Keep intriguing, educating and re-stating the benefits of engaging with you.
Will every single prospect end up calling you back? Probably not. But over time, if you stick with the program, you’ll see a measurable lift in your on-base percentage.
Source: Globe and Mail
Productivity tips from successful sales experts
July 14, 2014
Whether you’re just starting an insurance sales career or you’re a seasoned pro, you can always learn new ways to improve your technique, efficiency and productivity. Recently, a multidisciplinary panel of sales experts—from a wide range of fields—shared some of their best tips.
Three broad tactics emerged, presented below, along with some specific advice:
- Prioritize important tasks and manage your time: Simply focus on spending selling hours on selling. Eliminate all other time-wasters. Focus on the things that have the biggest impact on making your number, and are the least complex. It’s not enough to get everything done, the key is to get the things that matter done. Set time aside to be on the phone that is separate from planning or research time. Start each day with an idea of what you’re doing––and be ready to go with it. Ask yourself two important questions: What does success look like to you? And do your actions support your success goals?
- Invest in relationships: Get to know clients, empathize with them, and work toward a friendship as well as a business relationship. Send relevant hand-written thank-you notes instead of a perfunctory email. Avoid hype, and prove your credibility citing third-party endorsements, certifications and awards. Get crystal clear on where you add the most value to your company and customers, then structure your time around that activity. Focus your time on finding and nurturing your ideal clients who want and need what you have to offer. Keep your contacts, prospects, and customers organized. Focus on what’s in it for your buyer.
- Relentlessly seek efficiency: Refine your sales process to weed out useless tasks. Avoid multi-tasking; instead, do one thing at a time—and focus in on it. Do a weekly review and put the most important tasks and outcomes on your calendar. Keep a running task list at all times. Practice habits that give you incremental growth in efficiency every day.
Remember: top sales performance is a marathon, not a sprint.
Source: Baseline CRM
A.M. Best upgrades ratings for Florida Blue affiliates
July 14, 2014
Two Florida Blue affiliates, Capital Health Plan, Inc. (CHP) and Florida Health Care Plan, Inc. (FHCP) received upgraded ratings in two important areas from A.M. Best, a noted independent rating agency.
- Financial Strength Rating: The agency upgraded CHP and FHCP from Excellent (A) to Superior (A+).
- Issuer Credit Rating: The agency upgraded CHP and FHCP to “aa-“ from “a”.
The agency also reaffirmed existing marks for Florida Blue itself and another affiliate, Health Options, Inc. (HOI) as follows:
- Financial Strength Rating: Superior (A+) ratings of Florida Blue and HOI
- Issuer Credit Rating: “aa-“ ratings of Florida Blue and HOI
The agency also characterized the outlook of all ratings as stable.
Commenting on the upgrades, Best said they “reflect[s] the support Florida Blue offers to CHP and FHCP through reinsurance and guarantee agreements, as well as the increased role of a low-cost delivery model that is at the core of both CHP and FHCP.”
The affirmed ratings for Florida Blue and HOI reflect “their continuous profitable financial performance,” Best reported. “Florida Blue has posted positive operating results for the last 25 years. Pricing discipline combined with a controlled administrative expense structure, innovative provider contracting and enhanced medical management contributed to earnings over the last four years.”
In additional comments, the ratings agency also highlighted a favorable 2013 tax settlement and other factors that supported net income and future earnings. “Solid operating performance contributed to the company's very strong level of capitalization that provides a competitive advantage and significantly improves Florida Blue's flexibility to respond to market challenges related to the implementation of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act… Florida Blue's leadership in the individual market — with a wide range of products offered, retail presence and strategic repositioning of the Blue brand towards greater affordability and simplicity — puts it in a position to succeed in a post-reform environment. Florida Blue is likely to further enhance its strength in the individual segment through active participation in the Florida public exchange marketplace.”
The takeaway, from an agency perspective: in a competitive market and shifting landscape, Florida Blue remains well positioned for solid, reliable growth.
Time management tips from prodigies
July 07, 2014
When a tech company recently held a talent search among teenagers for scientifically innovative ideas, the result was more than some brilliant ideas. Some of the young contestants shared their strategies for balancing the competing demands on their time.
While you might not expect the voice of experience to come from a 17-year-old, their strategies make sense—even for a busy health insurance agent. What gets them through a typical day of classes, homework, extracurricular activities, sports, family time and science projects? Here’s how they manage:
- Scheduling: Before going to sleep, know what time you need to be awake and what you need to accomplish the next day. Book time blocks in your calendar for each activity. It actually helps you sleep better, knowing you won’t be relying on random events to shape your day.
- Use technology that works for you: If pen and paper work best, don’t abandon them because a higher-tech solution seems cooler. If you like an older time management app, don’t switch to a shiny new one just because it’s shiny and new.
- Plan time to let ideas percolate: You can’t—and shouldn't—spend every waking moment performing tasks on a checklist. For big projects that require insight (like a game-changing proposal or change in strategic direction for your agency), allow time on your calendar to ponder, consider, study and formulate. That’s where insight comes from.
- Break boulders into stones: Sometimes, one large logistical challenge is easier to manage if you can break it down into a series of smaller steps. Individual benefit orientations for 50 new employees can be broken into 10 sessions of five employees each.
- Take advantage of the lulls: If you’ve got 15 minutes before your next appointment, knock out a smaller chunk of a larger project. Or use it to percolate. Or do some stretches and get your circulation flowing.
- Build rewards into your planning: When you’re not focused on things you need to accomplish, what do you enjoy doing? Whatever it is, with all you achieve in a day, you deserve to spend some of your time doing it.
It’s amazing what you can learn from young overachievers.
Source: Fast Company
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