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Should your agency start a blog?
April 20, 2015
You’ve heard about them and might even read one or more of them yourself. Should you start a blog for your business? Quite possibly.
Start with the basics: A blog is short for “web log” and usually takes the form of an ongoing series of entries, called posts, which provide insight, opinion, comment or information. Some individuals use a blog as a personal soapbox—to comment on political or social issues. Businesses use blogs to provide context and detail on their areas of expertise while advancing the company’s agenda. Blogging offers numerous potential and entails numerous risks.
Benefits: A blog can help you connect with current and prospective clients. It can drive traffic to your company’s website, broaden your market and leverage your industry knowledge. It can boost sales, generate leads and bolster your PR efforts. It can be a perfect place for information that doesn’t fit neatly into your website, acting as a repository for presentations you and your staff have given, videos and other communication that showcases your company’s expertise. If you specialize in ACA-related strategies, a blog is an excellent place to address those kinds of issues. Because the landscape is always shifting, a blog lets you react swiftly to new developments and capitalize on the internet’s immediacy. Once your blog develops a following, readers will not hesitate to link to a particular blog entry on their own social media, putting your company in front of new readers every day.
Cons: Some of these benefits can work against you if you’re not careful. The same exposure you hope will win new business can also backfire. If you inadvertently wander into a controversial topic or fail to edit carefully, an entry can unexpectedly touch off negative attention from readers. So you have to be careful about the content you post. Blogging also requires resources. It can use up time, manpower, and capital, and it requires constant maintenance. Someone needs to design it, think up and write ideas for entries, write them in an engaging way that reflects your company’s personality, and get them posted. You can manage these functions through existing staff or hire an agency to manage it for you.
Bottom line: Blogging can work wonders for your agency and generate lots of new and expanded business opportunities. But it requires a solid commitment from management and employees. If you’re interested in starting a company blog, research the costs and benefits thoroughly. And if you decide to move forward, don’t do it timidly: jump in with both feet.
Derived from: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/business-start-blog/
Health care goes hi-tech in the latest Florida Blue eNews
April 20, 2015
The spring issue of Florida Blue eNews, has a new look as well as fun and informative health-related reads. Redesigned to be more mobile friendly, Florida Blue members can read about:
Members can also find a timely reminder about annual checkups, celebrating awareness months and tips for healthy snacking. The newsletter can also be accessed any time on FloridaBlue.com.
Time management: Get more done
April 13, 2015
Productivity isn’t only about the quantity of work you get done. It’s about the efficiency and quality of your work. That requires effective time management skills. Here are some areas that have the potential to use up your time, along with some skills to keep you humming along.
- Social media: Facebook and other media platforms can be time-addictive. They draw you in innocently, and by the time you look at the clock you’ve lost half an hour looking at your spouse’s aunt Martha’s cousin’s wedding pictures. To keep this from happening, do a little planning in your mind before visiting any social media website. Know exactly what you want to accomplish before you log in (“I’m just going to check and see if my last post generated any responses I need to know about”), and make sure your goals are specifically business-related. Surf idly in your downtime, but not during a busy workday.
- Routine chores: The more you do, the longer your to-list can get. And eventually, you become so busy doing busy work that you never get to the really important tasks. To keep routine maintenance tasks from monopolizing your day, prioritize the chores that only you can do and delegate the others. Focus on the value of the time you do spend on maintenance issues. Keep track of your hours as if you were billing them separately.
- Travel: It’s expensive, inconvenient and a huge investment of time spent sitting somewhere waiting for something to happen (like for the plane to land or the taxi to arrive at your destination). Yet most professionals consider occasional business travel indispensable, if only for the face time it creates. To maximize the efficiency of travel, pack lots of meetings into the same trip. Visit as many clients and prospects as possible, within a reasonable radius and timeframe. As a traveler, you’re always dependent on your Internet connection, which has a way of going down. When yours does, use the time to answer emails in offline mode, or do some writing on a project. Or some reading for research.
- Working remotely: It’s easier to get distracted by interruptions when you’re away from your office. So whether you’re working from Starbucks or your kitchen, some extra mindfulness helps keep you focused.
- Make sure you have a reliable, secure Internet connection so you won’t waste time reconnecting.
- Do your work in a separate dedicated workspace, if possible, preferably with a door you can close when you need to concentrate.
- Use headphones when you’re in a public space.
- Instead of keeping a simple list of tasks, block off time on your calendar for the major accomplishments you need to achieve every day. And start with the most difficult. Once that’s finished, reward yourself.
- Meetings: Everyone says they hate meetings, but they’re still as accepted and commonplace as ever. Since meetings remain a fact of life, consider a few ways to keep them productive. First, ask the organizer (or yourself, if you’re calling the meeting) if it’s really necessary. Would it be more efficient to review everyone’s status via email instead? If the meeting really is necessary, create and distribute an agenda in advance, and stick to it closely. And open the meeting by setting clear expectations—including time limits—so everyone can stay focused on the tasks at hand.
Try these strategies and you’ll be amazed at how much more work you can do—and how little time it takes.
The patient-centered medical home model is making its mark
April 13, 2015
Florida Blue patient-centered medical homes (PCMH), introduced three years ago, continue to produce better health outcomes for members with chronic conditions and are significantly helping Florida Blue control rising medical cost trends. In 2014, the per-member-per-month savings in this program was over 3 percent.
The program benefits all involved; physicians, employer groups, Florida Blue and most importantly, the members. Emergency room, inpatient and outpatient facility costs and utilization are less for PCMH practices than for non-participating peers. Potentially preventable admissions and re-admission rates are lower as well.
250 different Florida Blue practices with over 2,500 physicians currently participate in the PCMH model. Our PCMH program focuses on helping primary care practices understand the critical role they play in ensuring our members receive the right care in the right setting to get the best-quality and most cost-effective care they can.
“Our PCMH practices continue to show improvements year over year.” said Barbara Haasis, senior clinical lead, value-based programs. “We have reduced emergency room utilization by 15 percent and inpatient admissions by almost 8 percent, producing a significant decrease in the total cost of care. We support our PCMH practices in their decision making by providing them detailed data available 24/7. We also have a team of specialists to help interpret the data and provide best practice ideas for transformation of the practice to a patient-centric model”.
The PCMH program measures each physician practice in two categories: clinical quality and total cost of care for the practices attributed population. The clinical quality section is comprised of 29 Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) metrics. A practice must perform “as expected” or above — compared with statewide peers — to be eligible to receive an award.
The financial category looks at the total cost of care for attributed members regardless of who delivered the service. Holding practices accountable for the patient as a whole encourages them to stay on top of issues such as:
- Ensuring that patients are aware of available after-hours care and other sources of 24/7 access to their primary care provider.
- Making certain members see specialists that communicate results back to the referring primary care physician
- Ensuring that services are performed in a cost-effective facility.
Today more than 25 percent of our membership flows through our PCMH primary care physicians, and 90 percent of our members have access to a value-based provider. With approximately one million members, Florida Blue is the third-largest PCMH in the nation.
Strategies for marketing on a budget
April 06, 2015
All businesses engage in some form of marketing. But smaller insurance agencies and other businesses have their own unique challenges. To compete with the largest competitors, who have comparatively immense marketing budgets and can fund attention-grabbing campaigns, a smaller shop has to find innovative, cost-effective ways of getting its message out.
The need is there, but the dollars aren’t. For small businesses, it’s common to see marketing budgets as low as $5,000. Small agencies also lack the time and expertise to focus heavily on traditional marketing efforts.
So how is a smaller agency supposed to compete to get its message across? Consider these strategies to level the playing field.
- Digital media: A survey by Brandmuscle, a media marketing software company, found that many small business owners are scared off by digital media because they find it too time-consuming and complex. It doesn’t have to be. Start small by doing your own research: ask your existing clients how they found their way to you. They’ll tell you what kind of information they find helpful and what social media they use. Then take that information and use it to craft social media content that promotes your business. Invest as little as an hour per week and you’ll have a bank of useful posts that establish and build on your social media presence.
- Think local: School sports teams, amateur theatre groups, and other mostly-volunteer organizations always need support. Aligning yourself with them aligns you with the area you serve, and it positions your agency as a committed, responsible, civic-minded member of the community. So sponsor an event, pay for a sign at a local park or recreation center, help buy team uniforms, purchase a page in a playbill. And don’t be timid when offered a chance to set up a table at a local event. Use these sponsorships as opportunities to get more than your company’s name out there. Be sure to make it easy for people to contact you by listing your web address, email and phone number prominently.
- Shake things up: Think hard about your agency’s brand identity. Does the look and feel represent your strengths? Does it capture the essence of your competitive advantage? Does it resonate with the prospects you want to attract? And the clients you already have? You can rebrand by simply tweaking your logo and/or your tagline (the slogan that always appears with your logo). Change the way your social media posts come across simply by tweaking the “voice.” Move to a new color palette. Once you’ve decided on the elements of a new brand identity, announce it in social media. And use it consistently, so there’s no confusion among your target audience.
Next time you start feeling overpowered by larger competitors with even larger marketing budgets, try these strategies. They’ll help you leverage your strength, cost-effectively, without busting your budget.
Improve yourself to improve your business relationships
April 06, 2015
In any work environment, it’s easy to let your best habits slide over time—and fall into counterproductive habits without even realizing it. The new year is as good a time as any to step back and reassess some of the habits you need to do more of, and less of. If being a better, more productive agent and co-worker is one of your goals, consider these habits if they apply to you:
- Plan your work. Don’t pack up for the day without a clear idea about the next day’s challenges and how you’ll approach them. Budget time and resources in advance, so you can start the next day fully prepared.
- Show empathy. When a client or co-worker experiences personal or professional challenges, do what you can to help. The reverse is true, too. When someone does well, be among the first to offer genuine congratulations. You’re on the same team.
- Avoid creating your own stress. Focus on the things that keep you productive and skip the ones that stress you out. And remember how easy it is to exaggerate the downside.
- Tell the whole truth. When it comes to avoiding or solving problems, it’s smart to include all the relevant information—even if you fear it might reflect badly on you. That way you can assess and solve the problem honestly and completely.
- Avoid gossip. It never buys you useful information and usually costs you the respect or trust of others in the end.
- Be accountable. When results aren’t what you expect, whether with a client or co-worker, take responsibility. Then take immediate steps to fix it. Finger-pointing always backfires.
- Do more than the minimum. People who merely meet expectations get a C. If you want to be taken seriously at work, go for an A by exceeding the goals you set for yourself.
- Give compliments, not flattery. When a client or co-worker deserves your praise, give it freely and honestly, without sucking up. Flattery is transparent and makes you look insincere.
- Telecommute rarely: Avoid working from home unless you really need to. By showing up every day—literally and figuratively—you underscore your reliability and consistency to your organization. Besides, you can focus better and get more done when you work from the office.
- Show up on time. Make a priority of arriving at meetings, by phone or in person, on schedule. Showing up late is disruptive and rude, and it sends the unintentional message that your time is more valuable than others’.
- Carve out time for emails: Answer only the most urgent ones immediately. Let the others sit until you can focus on answering them methodically. This strategy lets you spend more time focused on your goals without distraction.
By honestly assessing and tweaking your habits (most of them unconscious), you can avoid behavior that’s holding you back professionally—and keep yourself on track for a successful 2015.
Health care goes hi-tech
March 30, 2015
Thanks to an explosion of new technologies and mobile apps, the day has come when doctors can make virtual house calls, and smartphones can double as a great resource for health and fitness. It’s a revolution in technology, and it’s already here.
One of the most exciting trends in the medical field is telemedicine—the use of telecommunications technology to provide, enhance, or expedite health care services, by accessing offsite databases, linking clinics or physicians' offices to central hospitals, or transmitting x-rays or other diagnostic images for examination at another site.
At the same time, mobile apps and in-home devices allow many doctors to examine, diagnose, make treatment decisions and track progress—all without an office visit.
These advancements provide an extra level of convenience for patients in many less serious situations (of course they don’t replace the old-fashioned in-person visit for people who are acutely sick).
Patients themselves overwhelmingly approve. In a recent survey, 94 percent of patients who used telemedicine found at least one benefit to virtual appointments.1 They cited the quality of care, a desire to avoid travel when sick, shorter wait times and lower cost as top reasons they liked their telemedicine experience.
Florida Blue will begin offering telemedicine services in late 2015 on a very limited basis. We will keep you informed as to when it is offered more widely.
Florida Blue helps providers promote member diabetes program
March 30, 2015
The CDC estimates that more than 86 million1 Americans have pre-diabetes and many don’t even realize it. Without intervention, many will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
Florida Blue is taking the lead on changing this alarming pattern with a targeted lifestyle change program called My Healthy Turnaround. Participating physicians are being encouraged to recommend the program to patients who are at risk.
Agents can support this important program by engaging with existing and prospective clients and benefit administrators.
The program is available no additional cost to Florida Blue members in the Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and South Florida (Miami-Dade and Broward Counties) locations. Plans to expand the program to the other regions are ongoing. My Healthy Turnaround is an example of Florida Blue’s proactive efforts to confront health issues with innovative services.
Individual under 65 and Medicare members who were identified as possibly being at risk for pre-diabetes were recently sent letters and emails, encouraging them to take an at-risk quiz.
Participants meet in groups with a trained lifestyle coach for 16 weeks and eight monthly follow-up sessions to learn ways to incorporate healthier eating and moderate physical activity into their daily lives.
To qualify for the My Healthy Turnaround lifestyle change program, patients must:
- be at least 18 years old
- be overweight (BMI ≥25)
- have established risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, such as age 45 or older, family history or other factors.
My Healthy Turnaround is offered at convenient locations including the YMCA and at worksites.
Scientific methods to build your customer base
March 23, 2015
All insurance agents—and sales professionals in general—are constantly looking for new ways to build their customer bases. They may be shiny new technology-based techniques or proven methods that have worked for colleagues for decades. Whatever works, right?
If you’re looking for proven techniques to build your base, science is a great source for inspiration. And there’s no lack of scientific research that examines the nuts and bolts of how people think and behave. With a little imagination, you can translate the results of many studies in unrelated fields—politics, fundraising, for example—and adapt their findings specifically for the insurance industry.
Consider these insights:
- Take advantage of labels: People self-identify when you label them positively. Why apply for a mere credit card when you can apply for a “Platinum-level card that caters to discerning consumers”? Instead of leading with “We’re looking for employers to do business with,” label the prospect in a positive light: “We’re looking for proactive (or quality-conscious or some other complimentary term) employers in growth mode to do business with.” The prospect will respond more positively when you include the aspirational stroke in your pitch—even if the stroke seems overly broad. What employer isn’t proactive or quality-conscious? The benefit is, prospects likes to hear you say you perceive them that way.
- Set smaller expectations: When asked to make a big change in behavior, prospects experience a quandary called “action paralysis.” The requested change has so many implications that the prospect feels comfortable making no change at all. Better to make your ask more manageable—something that’s easier to say “yes” to. One nonprofit tested two pitch letters: The one that added “Every penny helps” outperformed a more generic “Please support our organization” by almost two to one. Instead of asking if the CEO is willing to move his entire insurance program to your agency, start small. See if you can slice off a piece of the program first. Give the prospect a chance to see you perform on a small scale. Then you’ll be in a position to land the whole account.
- Take responsibility for a fix: When you’ve failed to meet the expectations of a prospect or existing client, you’ll recover faster and more completely by leveling with the person than by shifting blame. This is true whether the expectation itself is reasonable or not. Blaming an external force or explaining that something was out of your control reinforces the notion that you’re not in control. In contrast, taking responsibility for fixing a problem—even one you didn’t cause and cannot reasonably be held responsible for—boosts your credibility and underlines your problem-solving action-oriented approach.
The best thing about these techniques is that they’ve been proven in carefully controlled scientific studies. Try incorporating them and see if they don’t start lifting your numbers.
3 great reasons to register at FloridaBlue.com
March 23, 2015
Florida Blue’s secure member website has useful tools and information––including smart ways for members to get the most from their plan. Members are encouraged to register and establish a unique user name and password: visit FloridaBlue.com and click Login/Register.
Once registered, members can:
- Find a doctor or pharmacy in their plan’s network.
- Compare costs and save on services, treatment and prescriptions.
- Choose a payment option––including hassle-free automatic payments. After log in, click on Claims & Expenses then select Bill Paying Services.
Members have 24/7 access to other important information such as health topics, videos, health statements, benefit information and more. They can also download the mobile app to get information on the go, including directions to pharmacies and Florida Blue Centers.
Use these powerful self-service capabilities in BluesEnroll
March 16, 2015
The feature-rich BluesEnroll website offers many capabilities that make routine tasks easier for benefit administrators and agents. These include:
Canceling or terminating employees
It’s important to differentiate people who left employment (who resigned or were released, for example) from those who just want to be removed from the group policy (who have coverage under a spouse’s plan, for example). This distinction affects the group’s offerings under COBRA.
Viewing eligibility wait periods
- Log in to BluesEnroll and search for the group you want to view.
- Click the Dates & Rules tab
- Then click the edit-pencil icon on the left to see eligibility rules for various benefit types
As an agent, you can perform many other routine tasks on BluesEnroll:
- access all employer groups assigned to you or your agency to view and/or manage benefits (not available to BAs)
- change employee and dependent demographic information
- approve benefit elections and changes initiated by employees
- add, terminate, and rehire employees
- process qualifying life event changes
- manage employee login IDs and passwords
- track enrollment history
- run standard reports or create your own
Using BluesEnroll saves time and puts powerful capabilities in your hands to make you more flexible. This information is included in Agent Sales Bulletin #15-016. Instructions for using BluesEnroll to terminate employees or cancel their coverage were provided to BAs the week of January 19.
Stay in touch without annoying
March 16, 2015
Most businesses have mechanisms for staying in touch with existing clients and active prospects. In the insurance industry especially, this activity becomes vitally important for a number of reasons—including the shifting needs of the client base and a high degree of competition within the industry.
While regular client contact should be a year-round priority, it takes on added importance during the holiday season. But this is also a time when it’s easy to overdo it, which can backfire. There’s a fine line between maintaining contact with clients and annoying them. Consider these techniques for striking the right balance.
- Take your clients’ needs into account. Instead of focusing exclusively on your desire to close a sale, see your reach-outs from the client’s point of view. Share an article or key piece of relevant information the client or prospect will find useful.
- Take advantage of Facebook and other social media: Follow your clients to see what’s going on in their worlds. Perhaps they won an award, or they reached an anniversary. Use those opportunities to reach out on the same channel. At an absolute minimum, don’t hesitate to use the “like” button, though it’s better to comment supportively. Either way, it shows you take an interest in more than making a deal.
- Introduce people: Help your clients grow their own businesses by making personal introductions to others you know. If you can see a natural potential connection, take the initiative and offer to make the introduction. Even if it turns out to be unproductive, your client will remember that you thought enough of them to be proactive. That helps cement your relationship.
- Personal email or call: Check in to see how the client is doing on a personal goal. Or invite them to an event. It shows you’re interested in the client as a person and value the relationship.
- Revise your newsletter: If you go to the trouble of producing a newsletter at regular intervals, make sure it has content people actually want to read. Keep it informative, relevant or fun—the kind of content you would read if it found its way into your own inbox. You want it to support your brand. But if it’s too sales focused, it will get deleted—and people will eventually get annoyed and unsubscribe.
By nurturing your relationships through regular contact in a variety of formats, you can avoid the trap of coming off as insincere. And in the process, your proactive contact stays fresh and productive.
Using other people’s time efficiently
March 09, 2015
As an agent, you depend on relationships to build your business. And building and maintaining any relationship requires a commodity that’s always in short supply: time.
Each engagement you have with a client or prospect is, on some level, a request for someone’s time. That goes for every phone call, email or face-to-face meeting you initiate. So it’s a good idea to stay mindful of the dynamic and use only as much time as you need. Consider these tips for using other people’s time more efficiently:
- Make an appointment: People have busy schedules, just like you do. So whether you’re in the neighborhood or on the other side of town, whether you want to meet in an hour or next month, do the courteous thing and schedule the time in advance. That allows everyone a chance to prepare themselves mentally and focus on the topic. Drop-ins may seem friendly and neighborly, but they’re often disruptive—and disrespectful.
- Be upfront about your meeting agenda: Be clear about what you want to achieve. If you want to meet with a prospect to pitch business, say so. If it’s a more generic meeting just to check in with an existing client, say so. Well-intentioned sugarcoating usually backfires.
- Never bluff about deadlines: If you need a decision by a certain date, like the close of open enrollment, by all means give a deadline. But never create a fake one just to add urgency for its own sake. It will work against you, and your client or prospect will feel needlessly pressured.
- Avoid unnecessary back-and-forth: Use the communication channel your client or prospect prefers. Be clear and complete about what you want (“Could we meet for 30 minutes next Tuesday at 2 in your office?”). Once you get agreement on details, move on. How many times can you say you’re looking forward to the meeting anyway?
- Be prepared: Anticipate likely questions and objections, and have your source material ready, so you can respond without fumbling—or resorting to the dreaded “I’ll have to get back to you.” If you’re cold-calling, do some research in advance and find out the name of the person you need to speak with. When it’s obvious that you’ve done your homework, you’ll get much farther.
No matter what communication channel you use, it pays to demonstrate respect for people’s time. You might even save a little of your own time, too.
Cultural competency resources
March 09, 2015
As one of the most culturally diverse states in the nation, Florida has whole population segments that need to be considered. And while the state’s population grows more diverse, so does Florida Blue’s member base. Addressing these differences and communicating effectively and sensitively with people from diverse cultural backgrounds is more important than ever.
Cultural competency can help Florida Blue do its part to reduce health care disparities, enhance health literacy, and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. That’s why Florida Blue offers extensive training and resources to help health care professionals and providers build their cultural competency skills.
In our podcast, Health Care Disparities: Why Florida is a High-Definition Reflection, Dr. Deborah Stewart, Florida Blue’s client solutions medical director and Carl Patten, director of the Florida Blue Center for Health Policy, explore why health disparities in Florida are especially challenging, and how Florida Blue is addressing them. Our cultural competency webpage links to numerous additional resources, including:
- quick reference guide on health and health care disparities
- tips for communicating with patients from different cultures
- computer-based training for providers on cultural competency
- patient education materials
- resources for interpreter services
These materials are detailed here. For more information, contact Deborah Stewart, M.D., (904) 905-7922.
Marketing tool for agents: Member discounts at Healthways Fitness Your Way
March 02, 2015
Here’s a valuable benefit to show added value to Florida Blue plans: Members can access gyms in the Healthways Fitness Your Way network—more then 9,200 of them—for just $25 per month. The network includes familiar brands, including LA Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Curves and others.
While the offer requires an initial commitment of three months, satisfaction surveys show that 93 percent of members said they were likely to renew. Members also receive discounts up to 30 percent from a list of 40,000 vendors and practitioners.
The program offers a variety of resources that can help you market the package to existing employee groups and as a value-add for prospects. These include:
- A user website that’s packed with useful and motivational information
- A customizable coupon program to offset all or part of the $25 initiation fee
- An online list of participating vendors that offer discounts to members: https://fitnessyourway.healthways.com/cam.
- Customizable toolkit of collateral materials (password: healthways)
This information and further details, including detailed best practices for the coupon program, are available in Agent Sales Bulletin #A15-008.
Health care trends for 2015
March 02, 2015
As the health care industry continues to adapt and evolve, the Health Research Institute (HRI, a unit of the accounting firm of PriceWaterhouse Coopers) has identified a series of issues that will warrant attention in the coming year. These are discussed in new report based on responses of more than 1,000 industry leaders and consumers. Among the details:
- Self-tracking with technology: Devices like wearable monitors and smartphone apps are becoming popular, reflecting a trend in which consumers are taking more responsibility for their health.
- Portable devices: More consumers are using in-home and smartphone-based devices to support diagnostic tracking and treatments. They’re more convenient and less expensive than repeated doctor visits.
- Convenience vs. Privacy: As in-home devices become more universal, they make it easier to track progress. But they also make it easier for personal data to get stolen or misused, resulting in a loss of privacy. Expect convenience to gain some ground over privacy concerns in 2015.
- Creative cost-saving: As the cost of care rises for heavy users of health care services (Medicare and Medicare enrollees, the elderly and those with multiple health issues), care and management strategies will become more creative—with focus on cost saving without sacrificing quality.
- Evidence-based emphasis: Employers, providers and insurers will continue to demand outcome-based results before embracing new products, medications and care models.
- Transparency: As consumers take more responsibility for their care, they continue to demand transparency from providers on matters like cost and quality of care. And they’re getting it. Expect this trend to continue.
- Factoring in the newbies: All industry sectors—providers, insurers and employers—will learn from the experiences of those who are newly insured. And the industry will be listening and watching closely for opportunities to adapt—especially in areas like marketing and care management.
- Physician, extend thyself: Expect increased acceptance and use of nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and remote monitoring and diagnosis. These strategies extend physician capabilities cost-effectively and will likely result in payment models that leverage the cost reductions.
- Millennial well-being: More employers are responding to the younger generation’s focus on overall well-being. Much of that takes the form of wellness programs, proactive engagement with health care and other life-enriching experiences.
- Partnering for improvement: The trend toward non-traditional collaborations like Accountable Care Organizations will continue. Providers, employers, technology developers and other stakeholders will fine new ways of working together to improve outcomes and bottom lines.
The report is one of several research efforts put out by HRI.
Florida Blue hosts ICD-10 tweet chats for providers
February 23, 2015
When it comes to implementing the ICD-10 mandate (new set of diagnosis and inpatient procedure codes), Florida Blue has stayed ahead of the curve. That’s why we have been progressive in communicating and collaborating with providers and other stakeholders about this important new coding system.
Many providers regularly join our Open Line Friday monthly ICD-10 teleconference, which is one of our primary outreach vehicles. Now we have added a series of four Twitter tweet chats to augment the Open Line Friday ICD-10 conversation. Our initial tweet chat was held on February 11. The remaining one-hour social conversations begin at noon ET on the following dates:
- February. 25
- March 11
- March 25
Followers can locate us on Twitter @FLBlue and participate by tagging their posts “#FLBlueChat.”
Client Retention Strategies
February 23, 2015
In today’s economy competition for clients is fierce, especially in the insurance industry. Agencies can and will try to outdo you on service, quality, pricing and other key elements of your value proposition—driving up the cost of acquiring new clients for everyone.
These dynamics add to the importance of focusing on retaining your existing client base and prospect list. It is far less expensive to keep your clients satisfied than to acquire new ones, and satisfied clients are a key element in gaining referrals.
So you might want to consider shifting some of the time, energy and resources currently allocated to acquisition into retention. Consider these strategies for making sure your clients and prospects stay with you:
- Master the client experience: Doing business with your agency needs to be a consistently impressive experience. To make that happen, identify the elements of that experience in detail.
- How exactly do you want clients and prospects to feel when they walk into your office or call you on the phone or agree to a proposal?
- How do you feel when you’re on the receiving end of an amazing client experience—or conversely, when you’re the victim of lousy customer service?
- What steps can you take to ensure the most amazing experience possible—every time?
Once you break it down into discrete chunks, get your staff into alignment by setting measurable goals to achieve consistent excellence. Unlike perfection, consistent excellence is achievable.
- Make the most of small details: Remember how you felt when you received an unexpected personalized welcome note, birthday card or gift that says “thank you for being our client.” That’s how you want your clients and prospects to feel. So at any milestone in the customer experience—a new contract, an anniversary, a special event in a client’s personal life—leverage the opportunity to make them feel special. Do the same when you get a call from someone a client referred. Always be prompt—many insist on a 24-hour rule, and use handwritten notes when they make sense.
- Focus on human relationships: Your clients and prospects want to know you view them as living, breathing people—not just a commission. So it’s up to you to connect with them at that level. In a business context, find out what pleases them and what doesn’t. Solicit their feedback on your agency’s performance. Learn about their challenges and preferences. On a personal level, take the time to get to know them in a way that shows genuine interest without coming off as intrusive. What are their hobbies? How old are their kids?
- Leverage your missteps: It’s unrealistic to expect you’ll never make a mistake or displease a client. But you can turn those situations around if you handle them correctly. Multiple studies show that dissatisfied customers who experience a satisfactory resolution turn out to be more loyal than those who were satisfied all along. If you mess up, admit it, take responsibility for fixing it, provide a clear solution, and then offer an immediate post-fix thank-you.
Stick with these strategies and you’ll have less need to replace lost clients, enjoy longer, more rewarding client relationships, and a better bottom line.
View prospecting as a campaign
February 16, 2015
Prospecting is one of the least popular activities among sales professionals. As a result, many simply give up after an arbitrary number of failed attempts and move on to the next prospect. They view each effort as a discrete event, a one-off. This approach can be tedious, disorganized and likely to yield sub-optimal results. More importantly, it leaves untapped potential in the trash.
A more effective approach is to view prospecting as part of a well planned and executed customer relationship management (CRM) process—a campaign to engage prospects. Steps in an ideal process include:
- Identification: Pinpoint a prospect and enter as much relevant info as possible to your CRM or tracking system.
- Touch 1: Reach out by phone, leaving a voicemail asking the prospect to watch for your next communication, which will include best-practice case studies that demonstrate your ability to add value. Reiterate this message in an email.
- Touch 2: Letter (via snailmail) containing the promised case studies and explaining how they demonstrate your value-add applied to the prospect’s company.
- Touch 3: Follow-up phone calls at various times of day. Do this every couple of days for a week or two. Do not leave a voicemail.
- Touch 4: Voicemail or email with a heads-up that the prospect will soon receive a package that has ideas for a program of interest.
- Touch 5: Send the package, which should include details on how’ve added value to your existing clients and can achieve similar results for the prospect.
- Touch 6: Follow up to discuss the package contents; leave messages and send follow-up emails and letters (same as Touch 1). Continue this pattern until the prospect takes your call.
This process takes longer than a scattershot approach, but it gets you inside more doors. Some techniques for implementing the campaign approach include:
- Plan your communication stream in advance.
- Be sure each touch has specific value for each prospect and isn’t generic.
- Think of your process as a campaign. Each step puts your name in front of the prospect and raises the likelihood of connecting.
- Personalize your touches. Avoid boilerplate copy in letters, add handwritten notes when appropriate, and include relevant articles explaining why you think they’re relevant.
- Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by relating back to the prospect’s business as specifically as possible.
- Once you do connect with the prospect, begin your selling process immediately.
If you make the effort to follow this systematic approach consistently, you’ll connect with more prospects and convert more of them into clients. It just requires persistence and organization.
Preventive care guidelines for 2015
February 16, 2015
Florida Blue has updated the Preventive Care Guidelines for 2015. The guidelines, for adults and children, provide routine health and immunization checklists, recommended checkup and screenings, and websites for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Members can use these guidelines as a framework for discussing CDC recommended immunizations and preventive screenings with their doctors. Members should check their medical benefits plan for services covered. Catch-up vaccinations for members with high-risk conditions are at the doctor's discretion based upon family history and personal risk factors.
You can download the guidelines here.
Preventive Care Guidelines - Child and Adult Under 65 (ENG)
Preventive Care Guidelines - Child and Adult Under 65 (SPA)
Preventive Care Guidelines for Seniors (ENG)
Preventive Care Guidelines for Seniors (SPA)
They can also be found on floridablue.com. The Under 65 versions are entitled “What to discuss with your doctor” and can be found on floridablue.com/health & wellness/health resources/health guides. The Senior versions are available on bluemedicare.com/Resource &Events/Forms.
Marketplace enrollment progress for the US and Florida
February 09, 2015
With the Marketplace current open enrollment period drawing to a close, some interesting statistics are beginning to emerge for the country as a whole and Florida in particular for On Marketplace enrollment for individuals under 65.
According to the Associated Press (AP), “the Obama administration says sign-ups under the president’s health care law are edging higher.” Among the 37 states using the federal exchange, total sign-ups reached nearly 7.1 million. This figure “covers enrollment from November 15 through mid-January and includes people who actively selected plans or were automatically re-enrolled through the Federal exchange,” according to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Florida represents the largest share––1,270,995 enrollees––of the 7.1 million sign-ups.
Ultimately, the AP report continues, when the open enrollment period for individuals ends on February 15, national figures “should be significantly higher, since the federal count doesn’t include major states like California and New York, among those running their own exchanges.” The administration had set a target of 9.1 million enrollees for 2015.
One possible reason for the statewide increase: Health News Florida reports that the proportion of Florida enrollees receiving federal subsidies has risen, too. In 2014, about 80 percent of Florida enrollees qualified for federal assistance. For the period from Nov. 15, 2014 through Jan. 16, 2015, that number has climbed to 93 percent, according to the HHS report.
The current Florida Marketplace enrollee population breaks out as follows:
Under 18: 6%
18 – 34: 26%
34 – 44: 17%
45 – 54: 25%
55 – 64: 25%
Of those Floridians who enrolled in the Marketplace in the current period, 43 percent are new enrollees, and 57 percent are renewing their 2014 Marketplace coverage.
Sources: HHS Marketplace enrollment report
How to engage Millennials in health and wellness
February 09, 2015
They’re two of the most potent forces in today’s employment arena: the generation known as Millennials (those who came of age after the year 2000) and the rising importance of workplace-based health and wellness programs.
Creating synergy between the two is not the slam-dunk you might expect. Compared to Generation Xers and baby boomers (the two preceding generations), Millennials are significantly less likely to believe that preventive care plays an important role in staying healthy. Yet they’re more receptive than older groups when the boss promotes health goals in the workplace.
Using these and other observations about Millennials, here are some ways to promote health and wellness programs effectively to this age bracket:
- Use the right channels: Communicate with Millennials via media they trust and use: social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, chat programs like Chatter and Yammer, video-sharing sites like Vine and YouTube, geo-location systems like Foursquare, and media-sharing sites like Pinterest.
- Leverage competitiveness: Millennials welcome a little friendly competition, as long as they find it relevant. And wellness programs lend themselves to it. Take advantage of contests and challenges to stimulate engagement and motivation.
- Keep it simple: Millennials like convenience and dislike roadblocks. So do a little planning. Anticipate barriers and design activity programs they’ll find easy to do. On-site group activities like yoga classes work well.
- Get in the mindset: To understand what motivates this segment to act, get inside their heads a little. To the young and healthy, looking good is more important than avoiding medical problems. Those were probably your priorities too at that age. So tweak your messaging to account for this. Promote exercise as a way for people to look and feel their best.
Share these strategies with groups and their employees. The more their workforce skews younger, the better it will resonate.
New look for two Florida Blue websites
February 02, 2015
Two Florida Blue websites have been updated to reflect a consistent brand look and feel similar to the company’s member website. Look for the new designs on the Florida Blue Centers website and the Spanish version of the main site.
Here’s what’s new:
- The revisions enhance the visual and functional experience, making it easier for users to move between different sections of the Florida Blue website.
- The sites employ technology that detects whether the user is connecting on a desktop, tablet or mobile device and adapts accordingly.
- Both sites accommodate users with visual and hearing impairments.
- Updated information on Health Care Reform is now downloadable, including a useful checklist.
- The English and Spanish versions of the Florida Blue Centers site are now located on their respective main corporate sites.
- The Spanish version of the main website more closely follows the layout of the English version and is targeted more toward members and less toward providers, agents and employers.
This information, along with other details, are contained in Agent Bulletin #A14-371.
Common sales techniques and what not to overdo
February 02, 2015
It’s clear among sales people in all industries, including insurance: Use the prospect’s name. And when you’re prospecting or following up—on the phone or in person—the technique makes sense, and it has been proven to work.
But at some point, too much of a good thing becomes counterproductive. Inserting the prospect’s name six times in the space of a 60-second call creates problems. It’s sure to annoy the prospect and take the focus off your message. Instead of building rapport, it builds a wall between you.
Solution: Use your own best judgment. Insert the person’s name when doing so feels natural and comfortable. That’s the way to engage, rather than annoy, the prospect.
Other proven techniques for improving sales include:
- Spend more time prospecting for leads. The best sales professionals make a habit of prospecting every day.
- Develop impactful, non-formulaic openings targeted to your prospect. Canned, one-size-fits-all openings sound insincere and irrelevant.
- Ask follow-up questions that penetrate and provoke consideration. Use the opportunity to capture information you can use later.
- Craft thoughtful, focused sales presentations, not pitches. Spend some time customizing the benefits for the prospect’s hot-button issues.
- Gain agreement at key points in your conversation to keep it moving ahead. At each green-light, seize the chance to move on to your next step, in a natural progression to closing.
- Learn to overcome objections skillfully and effectively. Anticipate based on your knowledge of the prospect and be ready move beyond it.
- Never forget to ask for the sale. You cannot ask too often, only too early. Close when the time is right, but make sure you close.
Implement these techniques in your routine, and your numbers will improve.
Most marketplace enrollees plan to change plans
January 26, 2015
A study by Radius Global Market Research provides insight into the level of satisfaction and other data among people who purchased health insurance through federal and state online marketplaces. Among the findings:
- Of the 7 million households that purchased insurance through an ACA marketplace, most are satisfied with their plans; 20 percent said they were dissatisfied.
- Compared to care they received before 2014, most were satisfied with both the quality and cost of health care they’re receiving now.
- Despite this, about two thirds plan to shop for new coverage during the open enrollment period that began on November 15, 2014. This is likely to drive competition among insurance carriers.
- The most widely named priorities for new plans are reduced cost and greater access to medical care.
- More the 50 percent said they expect their insurance premiums to rise over the next six months.
- Many switched to a new primary care physician because their policies didn’t include their old PCP in its network.
- About 25 percent of households said they visit their physicians less often and/or experience longer wait times to see their physicians.
- Overall satisfaction correlated positively with enrollees who reported receiving an adequate explanation of their ACA coverage, but less than half—44 percent—reported feeling well-informed.
One of the report’s main takeaways was that insurance companies need to develop specific strategies to avoid high levels of churn during the next open enrollment period.
Source: Radius Global Market Research
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SAL ASN 001 042015