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Agent Sales News

Selling higher priced plans

As with any service, the price of a health insurance policy is a major factor when you’re sitting across from a client or prospect. Clients often get stuck on the monthly premium and have trouble discerning the real value of a plan. As a result, many clients wind up with plans that are sub-optimal for their needs while many agents wind up settling for sub-optimal sales and commissions.

Sales experts have much to say on the topic of selling in various price ranges. It requires some technique, but it can result in a win-win. Among the experts’ recommended strategies for selling at higher price points:

  • Don’t lead with a low price: If the best you can say about a plan is its lower price, the client will know there’s little else to recommend it. Besides, clients who are over-focused on getting low pricing will usually demand even deeper discounts.
  • Higher price commands more attention: It tells the client your proposal is significant and should be taken seriously.
  • Seize the opportunity: If you propose a plan that’s priced higher than a competitor’s plan, it gives you a chance to differentiate your company and detail its unique selling points.
  • Wiggle room: Leading with a higher price leaves you room to agree to a reduction if the client needs a concession.
  • Happy surprise: The client may accept your higher pricing proposal without questioning it. Though it doesn’t happen often, stranger things have happened.

Justifying a higher price may take some effort, but you didn’t go into sales expecting it to be easy. But the takeaway is simple: Lead high, always, and employ your negotiating skills to improve your numbers.


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Florida Blue’s summer eNews for members

The latest issue of Florida Blue eNews for individuals under 65 and group members is packed with fun activities for summer, health tips and information members can use.

At home or at the beach, members can now read the new mobile-friendly newsletter on their smartphone or tablet.

They can also learn the benefits of cooking with family and how to make the most of volunteering.

Members were emailed this earlier in June, as shared with you in agent bulletin A15-116.



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Paid enrollment stats show Marketplaces are working

In March, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a snapshot of Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM) and state-based marketplace (SBM) enrollment totals, which includes paid (effectuated) enrollments. It includes a breakdown by state, financial assistance, and metal level (SHOP not included).  

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 10.2 million consumers have coverage and have paid premiums as of March 31
  • 7.5 million enrolled through HealthCare.gov; 2.7 million enrolled through the remaining SBMs
  • 85% of enrollees were receiving advanced premium tax credits, at an average of $272 per month; 57% were receiving cost-sharing reductions

Florida-specific stats include:

  • 1,415,981 total enrollees
  • 1,324,516 (93.5%) received advanced premium tax credits (second highest percentage in U.S.), with average credit of $294/month.
  • 998,137 (70.5%) received cost-share reductions through silver plans
    • Enrollment by plan type: catastrophic 0.33%; bronze 15.44%; silver 76.32%; gold 3.42%; platinum 4.48%.

Other states with the highest rate of consumers who received advanced premium tax credits were: Mississippi (94.5%), North Carolina (93.2%), Wyoming (92.9%), Louisiana (92.0%), Arkansas (91.1%), and Georgia (91.1%).

“The Health Insurance Marketplaces are working,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans now rely on the health and financial security that comes from affordable coverage through the Marketplaces. We’ve seen a historic reduction in the uninsured and consumers are finding the coverage they need at a price they can afford.”

The Marketplace effectuated enrollment snapshot provides point-in-time estimates. CMS expects enrollment numbers will change over time when consumers find other coverage or experience changes in life circumstances such as employment status or marriage, which may cause consumers to change, newly enroll in, or cancel their plans. The organization plans to release Marketplace state-by-state effectuated enrollment snapshots on a quarterly basis.

Read the full press release here.

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Florida Blue rated superior by A.M. Best 2015

Recognized for strong market share due in part to recent membership, brand recognition, retail strategy and diversified product line, A.M. Best ranked Florida Blue and its affiliates (Health Options, Inc., Capital Health Plan, Inc., and Florida Health Care Plan) with a financial strength rating of A+ (superior).  The outlook for all ratings is stable.

Florida Blue and its affiliates were also cited as innovative providers for contracting and enhancing medical management.

Ratings reflect the trend of profitable earnings, as a result of pricing discipline and a controlled administrative expense structure.

A.M. Best's Financial Strength Rating (FSR) is recognized worldwide as the benchmark for assessing and comparing insurers' financial strength. It is based on a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a company's balance sheet strength, operating performance and business profile.

For the latest rating, access www.ambest.com.

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Emergency room visits still rising under ACA

Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seeks to reduce emergency room visits for non-emergency care, a recent survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) says the initial numbers are going in the opposite direction. About 75 percent of the survey’s 2,000 ER physician respondents reported a significant increase in visits in the last year. Only 3 percent reported a decrease.

One possible reason for the surprising uptick, according to the report is a shortage primary care physicians to handle the influx of newly insured patients who signed up under the ACA. One ER physician speculated that some of those newly insured patients, if they were unable to find a local primary care physician, could have turned to their local ERs because they had nowhere else to go for medical care.

Against this backdrop, GuideWell Health, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation, is doing its part of move the needle in the right direction. The Florida Blue sister company recently opened a stand-alone urgent care facility in Winter Park. Under the name GuideWell Emergency Doctors, the 7,500-square-foot clinic is staffed by board-certified emergency medicine physicians and offers the clinical capabilities to treat major medical conditions as well as minor urgent care needs, and has on-site diagnostic equipment.

The walk-in clinic is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday - Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays.

For more details on GuideWell Emergency Doctors, Agent Bulletin #A14-383 is available electronically at our website.

Wall Street Journal
USA Today

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Consumers taking control in health care

Many health insurance companies and medical providers are encouraging consumers to take more control over their health care. A new study from Pfizer, Ipsos and the National Council on Patient Information and Education suggests that message is getting through.

Researchers found that about 80 percent of respondents perceive that they’re expected to become actively engaged in making health improvements. And that’s a good thing: an even higher portion, 92 percent, said they would like to have greater control of their health.

There’s very little confusion among respondents about what they need to do to maintain good health: 95 percent know that exercise and diet are major factors. Respondents were overwhelmingly able to identify other important factors, too: Checkups, screenings, preventive care, doctor consultations all scored above 80 percent.

The survey also highlights other indications that consumers are thinking more proactively about their own health:

  • About two thirds of respondents are taking more responsibility—including doing their own research about issues and symptoms, tracking their own vital signs and taking non-prescription meds when needed.
  • Nearly 90 percent feel confident in their ability to take charge of their health, and most know where to seek health-related information when needed.
  • Many ask a pharmacist, physician or other health professional when selecting non-prescription products.

The study is based on survey responses from more than 2,000 U.S. adults.

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Uninsured rate hits new low of 11.9 percent

A long-term tracking study shows that the rate of uninsured Americans stands at 11.9 percent for the first quarter of 2015. That’s the lowest point ever recorded since 2008, when the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index started tracking the number of people without health insurance.

The most recent measure marks a sharp drop from the third quarter of 2013, when the uninsured rate stood at 18 percent. The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate took effect in January 2014, and is responsible for much—but not all—of the steep decline. The improving economy and a drop in unemployment were also seen as significant factors.

The decline was most notable among low-income Americans (those making less than $36,000 per year) and Hispanics, which dropped 8.7 and 8.3 points respectively since the end of 2013. These were identified as the two key demographics most likely to lack health insurance before the ACA took effect.

Additional groups experiencing sharp drops in the uninsured rate include Millenials (those age 26 to 34, down 7.4 points) and African Americans (down 7.3 points) since the end of 2013.

Other trends noted in the report include:

  • Among adults under 65, the uninsured rate declined from 20.8 percent at the end of 2013 to 14.5% in the first quarter of 2015. This decline largely reflects a rise in the number of individuals purchasing their own coverage.
  • More than one fifth (21.1 percent) of adults under 65 said they are covered by a self-funded plan; this number reflects a rise of 3.5 points since the fourth quarter of 2013.
  • Nine percent of adults under 65 are on Medicaid, a slight increase since the individual mandate became effective in January 2014.

The report is based on phone interviews with 43,575 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted between Jan. 2 and Mar. 31, 2015.





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Understanding the multicultural growth in Florida

Whether you’ve lived here all your life or just moved here, one of the first things people notice about Florida is that our population includes people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Demographers (the people who study population trends) predict the state will continue to experience significant multicultural growth in the years ahead.

Because Florida Blue serves the whole state, that fact alone has a direct impact on the company’s future. Consider a few key factoids about the multicultural market:

  • The two biggest segments of the multicultural market, Hispanics and African Americans, already comprise 40 percent of the state’s population. This number will increase to 43 percent in the next four years.
  • Florida’s Hispanic population alone is expected to grow by more than 10 percent over the next five years. As the size of an average Hispanic household grows, the overall Hispanic population will continue increasing exponentially.
  • From an income perspective, 29 percent of Hispanics and 30 percent of African Americans earn between $25,000 and $40,000 per year—slightly higher than the state average in this income segment. These two population segments also make up a higher portion of the population that’s eligible for Medicaid and the health care exchange.
  • The number of young Hispanic adults is expected to grow especially fast. Florida Hispanics age 19 to 34 (Gen Y) will increase by 22 percent between 2014 and 2019. Hispanics under age 20 (Gen Z) will grow more than twice as quickly: by 50 percent for the same period.
  • For young African American Floridians, growth will be slower: African Americans age 19 to 34 will grow by just two percent. For African Americans under age 20, growth will be 36 percent.
  • Florida’s Hispanic baby boomer population (born between 1946 and 1964) will grow just one percent over the next five years. The African American baby boomer population will actually decrease by 12 percent in the same period.
  • For comparison, national projections show the 19-to-34 age group growing at six percent between 2014 and 2019; the under-20 population growing at 35 percent; and the Baby Boomer population decreasing by two percent.

A comprehensive plan for reaching the multicultural market is an important component of Florida Blue’s overall customer experience strategy. It’s important to understand these trends so you can engage in culturally relevant ways with members, prospects and the communities where Florida residents live.



Source for Population Graph:  Geoscape, IMI Analysis of Census Data

Sources for income stats: Geoscape, IMI Analysis of Census Data

Sources for generational stats: Geoscape, IMI Analysis of Census Data


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Make your blog work harder for your agency

For many companies, a blog is one important component in a comprehensive online marketing strategy. A blog (short for “web log”) is an ongoing series of content entries that lets you share your expertise with regular readers. It burnishes your credibility and creates an audience consisting of likely prospects and existing clients.

A blog is inexpensive to create and maintain. More than three quarters of companies that use blogs report it’s worth the investment. If you’re considering establishing a blog for your agency (or the one you already publish is getting stale) try these strategies for optimizing results.

  • Clarify what you want the blog to do. Like websites, blogs exist for different reasons. Do you want to build traffic to your website? Get others to link to you? Make prospects aware of your agency? Nail down your objectives first, so you can make every entry focused on the result you want to achieve.
  • Establish what you want to include. Will it be mostly the musings of an industry guru? A lot of short takes from trusted sources? Will it be all words? Will it have lots of graphics? Decide in advance, so you can work toward an objective standard.
  • Remember whom you’re talking to. Reverse-engineer what your ideal audience wants to see, then create blog entries that are relevant. If you’re targeting prospects, provide industry knowledge that positions you as the expert. Avoid fluff pieces like employee updates that would work better in an intra-company newsletter.
  • Create a calendar. To build a loyal following, follow a predictable timetable—so people can look forward to fresh content. Having a schedule in the back of your mind also helps discipline your mind to be looking out for new topics. It can also add to your coveted Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking, which helps determine how close to the top your blog appears when others search for agencies like yours.
  • Make it readable. Your blog should be written in a way that makes people enjoy reading it. Use active verbs and let a human voice come through. Avoid corporate-speak.
  • Delegate if necessary. If you’re running a high-performing agency, you might cringe at the thought of adding such a major responsibility. Assign it to a key member of your staff—and be sure to include that person’s byline. Or hire a freelancer to do the writing based on your input.
  • Make your blog self-promotional. Spice things up with some creative strategies. Invite a key prospect to write a guest column. Cross-promote your blog on your Facebook page, on your website and in other social media.
  • Always say what you want. This is basic marketing and sales. Always state clearly what you want your reader to do—which in most cases boils down to “call us” or “ask me about…” No matter how informative and well written your blog is, it will perform better with a clear, consistent call to action. Without it, you’re leaving money on the table.

Follow these strategies as needed, and you’ll see a steady rise in readership—and results for your agency.

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A decade of giving: Sapphire Awards for 2015

The Florida Blue Foundation supports the communities where we do business in a variety of ways. One of the most visible of these recently celebrated a milestone anniversary: The 10th Annual Sapphire Awards were announced at a luncheon in Weston, Florida, on April 25.

Information about the Florida Blue Foundation’s community support has helped win over sales and renewals in those communities, and agents are encouraged to share details with prospects and clients. The Sapphire Awards honor outstanding individuals, programs and nonprofit organizations in community health care, or health care-related fields, whose work is distinguished by leadership, innovation and achievements in community health.

The awards ceremony concluded a two-day symposium at which attendees heard from national and state speakers on a range of topics related to health care. For 2015, five awards, totaling $325,000, went to the following health care organizations, programs and individuals:

  • Organization Category: Florida Department of Health in Indian River County, Vero Beach ($100,000) and The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Miami-Dade ($50,000).
  • Program Category: Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Program, Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka ($100,000).
  • Individual Category: Margarita Romo, Founder and Executive Director, Farmworkers Self-Help, Dade City ($50,000) and Moody Chisholm, M.B.A., former president and CEO, St. Vincent’s HealthCare, Jacksonville ($25,000).

To select this year’s winners, an independent panel of experts, with expertise in community health best practices, chose from 164 nominees.

Since 2005, the Foundation has presented 60 Sapphire Awards, totaling more than $3.4 million, to nine individuals and 51 programs and organizations across Florida.

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Florida Blue receives brand excellence award

With a big assist from insurance agents across the state, Florida Blue earned a Brand Excellence Award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). The annual awards, announced on April 21, honor Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies that excel in developing and enhancing the overall BCBS brand image.

This award, recognizing Florida Blue’s achievements in the area of member retention, marks the company’s third Brand Excellence honor. Ninety three percent of members renewed their coverage over the past year. In 2014, Florida Blue saw a net gain of more than half a million members, bringing total membership to approximately 4.3 million.

The recognition showcases the loyalty of existing members. And you, our valued sales partners, played a key role in helping Florida Blue perform at such a high level.

“Nearly 105 million Americans trust the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Brands with providing reliable, high-quality health care coverage to them and their families,” said Scott P. Serota, BCBSA president and CEO. “We are proud to recognize those BCBS companies that have exceeded member expectations and delivered exceptional service to the communities they serve.”

This marks the 20th year that BCBSA has presented Brand Excellence Awards. In addition to member retention, other categories include attracting new customers, fostering loyalty among existing customers and brand innovation.


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Employer strategies for keeping benefit costs in line

According to a recent survey, companies are taking a variety of approaches to meet the challenges of managing benefit costs. The research, titled “Trends in employee benefits: Perspectives from the C-suite and HR/benefit managers,” looked at trends expected within the next five years.

The report noted that those perspectives differ depending on whom you’re talking to. Human resources and benefit managers viewed some strategies differently from those at the executive level.

Sixty percent of companies surveyed are (or will be) tinkering with the types of health plans available. Of these, many expect their companies to move toward self-funded plans, private exchanges and plans with higher deductibles.

Most respondents agreed that the short-term challenge will revolve around balancing the need to maintain high levels of employee morale, retention and productivity while controlling escalating costs. But the respondents differed in strategies to reach that balance.

Those at the managerial level believe the right mix of benefit offerings can help companies retain the best employees; for executive decision makers, benefits are seen as useful in bringing in new candidates on board.

Wellness programs are getting most of the attention from both groups—partly because the Affordable Care Act encourages companies to offer them. Among the executive-level respondents, 93 percent said they expect new or beefed-up wellness programs to play a key role in their plans over the next 18 months.

The study’s authors commented that companies should integrate wellness offerings into their existing benefit programs and productivity strategies.

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Studies report more Americans receiving care

A survey released earlier this year shows that many initial problems associated with a lack of health care coverage before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are starting to improve. As a result, even as some issues remain, more Americans are able to obtain and afford the care they need.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • For the first time since 2003, the number of working-age adults who failed to get needed care because of cost declined. The number of uninsured dropped from 80 million in 2012 to 66 million in 2014.
  • For the first time since 2005, the number of adults reporting medical bill problems declined—from 75 million in 2012 to 64 million two years later.
  • Among working age adults, the number of uninsured declined from 37 million in 2010 to 29 million in 2014, representing the first statistically significant decline since the survey began in 2001.
  • The age group with the steepest gains in coverage was between ages 19 and 34. The rate of uninsured in this group dropped from 27 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2014—largely because of the ACA provision which took effect in 2010, allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.
  • Insurance coverage among low-income Americans (those with incomes below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level) increased significantly. Although Florida was not among the states accepting federal Medicaid expansion funds, the national rate of uninsured in this income group fell from 36 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2014.

Despite these improvements, the survey reported that most without insurance continue to experience problems paying for medical care. Among the uninsured, which includes low-income patients in states that, like Florida, declined federal Medicaid expansion funds, 57 percent avoided getting care they needed because of the cost; 51 percent reported having problems paying medical bills.


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Christmas in July?

Unfortunately Florida Blue will not be closed for a Christmas in July holiday, but just a reminder that Florida Blue will be closed on these remaining 2015 holidays:

  • Memorial Day, Monday, May 25
  • Independence Day, Friday, July 4
  • Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7
  • Thanksgiving, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26-27
  • Christmas, Friday, Dec. 25

Agents will be notified in advance of any special agent service center hours. Please be sure to mark your calendars!

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Minimal impact from ACA employer mandate

A recent survey released by HR consulting firm Mercer suggests the ACA’s employer mandate had little impact on the number of workers receiving company-sponsored health insurance benefits.

The first phase of the mandate’s implementation, affecting companies with 100 or more workers, took effect January 1, 2015. It required those companies to offer health insurance benefits to at least 70 percent of their full-time employees (FTEs) or pay a penalty. Phase two, extending the mandate to companies with 50 or more FTEs, is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2016. For purposes of eligibility the ACA defined FTEs as those who consistently work 30 hours per week.

The survey, which included 572 employers, revealed that most had already met the mandate’s requirements; 16 percent altered their eligibility policies to comply with the requirement. While it noted a 1.6 percent rise in the total number of workers covered by employer-sponsored health plans between 2014 and 2015, it attributed the change to a 2.2 percent rise in the size of the national workforce itself.

The survey found 88 percent of employees were eligible for coverage (up one percent from last year), but the percent who actually took advantage of eligibility and enrolled dropped to 83 percent (down one percent from last year).

The results seem to alleviate concerns that the mandate would prompt employers to alter their workforces in order to avoid compliance. According to the survey, two percent of respondents said they reduced staff in order to avoid having to comply with the mandate; three percent said they planned to stop offering health coverage in the next five years.

Broken out by company size, a quarter of respondents had 5,000 or more employees; 22 percent had between 500 and 4,999 employees; the remaining 28 percent had fewer than 500.


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Florida Blue collecting member information

Communication improves when you speak the language. That’s the thinking behind a new capability at Florida Blue. Members (non-Alliance) can choose to provide information about their race, ethnicity, language preference and disabilities (RELD) information.

The information, provided voluntarily, is used to improve communications and the overall member experience. Some examples of member communication that will be improved by incorporating RELD data include:

  • printed documents in alternate formats and languages
  • servicing member inquiries in their language of preference
  • tailoring health care solutions for added relevance to members
  • making web content more appropriate for members

The capability to opt into the RELD data collection program began in December 2014 with the Individual Sales Tool and the rollout will continue through 2015 and beyond.

More recent milestones allow members who access their Personal Health Assessment on WebMD to update voluntary RELD questions. In April—new information fields will appear when the member logs in to their account and selects the My Profile tab. And more enhancements are scheduled.

More details about the RELD data collection implementation are contained in Agent Sales Bulletin #A15-046.

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HCR resources for groups

As health care reform (HCR) evolves and existing deadlines appear on the horizon, it’s a challenge to be sure your large and small groups comply with all the requirements and reporting.

Fortunately, we have updated resources to help you navigate the landscape and provide exceptional client service. And there’s no better time to review what’s available.

Log in to accessBlue, select ‘Health Care Reform & You’ and click on ‘Health Care Reform Educational Materials’ to access a library of checklists and guides including:

  • ACA Guide for Group Employers
  • ACA Checklist for Large Group ASOs  
  • ACA Checklist for Large Group fully insured
  • ACA Checklist for Small Groups

Florida BlueAgent Bulletins provide reliable information and important links on a wide range of HCR topics. Two of them speak specifically and in detail about reporting minimum essential coverage. On accessBlue, remember to change to the correct quarter to view past bulletins.

  • Bulletin #A14-317: HCR requirements for reporting minimum essential coverage to IRS. Includes useful links to IRS forms, FAQs, etc. From Oct. 2014.
  • Bulletin #A15-009: HCR reporting of offers of health insurance coverage by employers (IRS section 6056). From January 2015.

Use these resources to brush up on your own knowledge base and make yourself indispensable to business clients.

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Boosting word of mouth

For insurance industry professionals—and most other business-to-business service providers—nothing beats word of mouth for business development. Not paid advertising, social media, public relations or any other single component in a healthy marketing mix.

Think about it: a prospect who has been referred to you already knows your name and contact information. And that information probably came attached to a specific or implied endorsement from an existing client. By referring a prospect to you, someone put their own reputation on the line—probably because they see you as a subject matter expert, a customer service guru, a can-do professional, or some combination of these and other qualities. The person making the referral was a cheerleader for you.

Converting the referred prospect into yet another cheerleader requires a little intuitive thinking. Here are some tips:

  • Be the expert: By asking the cheerleader for a recommendation, the prospect is looking for someone with a superior level of product knowledge and expertise. Someone who has the information needed to solve problems and recommend ways of avoiding pitfalls. So educate the prospect. Demonstrate your knowledge. Anticipate the prospect’s questions and answer them before they’re asked.
  • Be on-record: Start creating your own credibility-establishing content on the web. Write blogs and white papers. Host webinars. These create buzz about your expertise, and they’re great for burnishing your credentials as a subject matter expert. When you have the beginnings of a content library (two or three pieces), point to the pieces the prospect finds relevant. If you lack time to write your own content, assign it to someone on your staff—or bring in a freelancer.
  • Be the right person for the job: The referred prospect asks for recommendations because they want to avoid making a costly mistake. They want to connect with an insurance professional who gets it––someone who understands the prospect’s business priorities, expectations and needs. This information will come out of your first meeting. So listen carefully, probe like a pro and deliver what the prospect wants.

By using this strategy, you’ll boost word of mouth, which helps you convert more prospects into clients. And by servicing your clients consistently, you’ll convert more of them into enthusiastic cheerleaders.



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Traveling internationally? Don’t forget to pack GeoBlue

For people traveling internationally, Florida Blue has GeoBlue plans that offer timely cashless access to an international network of carefully selected doctors and hospitals. GeoBlue helps members avoid health and security hazards when traveling abroad—and comes in two forms:

  • GeoBlue Navigator for Student covers inbound and outbound travel: It’s for American students and faculty traveling abroad and international students and faculty living in the U.S.
  • GeoBlue Voyager covers outbound travel only: It’s for American students and faculty as well as Americans leaving the U.S. for leisure, missionary or business travel.

Both plans provide an array of international medical assistance services and information, accessible by mobile devices—a feature that traditional domestic health insurance plans do not offer.

GeoBlue plans include the following services:

  • Appointment scheduling with contracted international doctors and facilities with no out-of-pocket costs
  • Outpatient care coordination, especially for chronic conditions and special needs
  • Inpatient case management and emergency evacuation
  • Online and mobile global tools to find carefully selected providers, find brand name medications equivalents, translate key medical terms and phrases and confirm eligibility for benefits as well as play a precise translation in the world’s most widely spoken languages

GeoBlue Navigator benefits include:

  • worldwide medical coverage built for students and faculty in the U.S. and abroad
  • a range of deductibles and rates to choose from
  • unlimited annual and lifetime medical maximum
  • deductible waived for office visits and doctors
  • no waiting period or sublimit for preventive services
  • no-precertification penalty for inpatient or outpatient care
  • pre-existing conditions covered with creditable coverage (prior HTH Student Plans qualify)
  • coverage for injuries related to sports and terrorism
  • access to elite providers in over 180 countries outside the US.

GeoBlue Voyager benefits include:

  • Ideal for international leisure, educational , missionary or business travel
  • a range of medical limits and deductibles to choose from
  • up to $1,000,000 in medical coverage
  • medical evacuation, mental health, RX and AD&D
  • no precertification penalty for inpatient or outpatient care
  • coverage for injuries related to terrorism
  • access to elite providers in over 180 countries outside the U.S.
  • coverage is available for pre-existing conditions when insured with a primary health plan
  • Travel reimbursement services – see below

GeoBlue Voyager Travel Reimbursement Services

In addition to the above listed coverage, all participants covered by GeoBlue Voyager are enrolled in the Global Citizens Associations whose members are entitled (subject to submission of the proper documentation) to a total of a $500 allowance, and limited to $100 per incident, to cover costs associated with each of the following incidents:

  • Re-issuing a lost passport
  • Re-issuing a lost airline ticket
  • Replacing a lost piece of luggage that has not been returned (limited to $100 per piece of luggage) while on your covered trip. This does not include luggage that was temporarily delayed or lost and later recovered.

All participants are eligible for an additional allowance up to $500 if, post departure, your trip is shortened or interrupted for medical reasons, a terrorist event or an imminent threat* to personal safety. In that event, a participant will be reimbursed for the cost of changing an airline ticket or ground transportation ticket of the same class as the unused travel ticket to return home in an amount up to $500 (subject to submission of the proper documentation such as a medical report).

* Threat must be documented by U.S. State Department travel warning that is issued during your trip.

GeoBlue brochures and GeoBlue individual products are available online and are distributed and serviced by Worldwide Insurance Services, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. GeoBlue products are made available in cooperation with local Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.


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How to make customers fall in love with your agency

Maybe “love” is a little strong to describe a business relationship. But there’s definitely some overlap between relationships involving people and those involving businesses.

For one thing, they often follow a similar arc: clients get smitten with agencies that exceed initial expectations. If the agency performs with consistency and character over time, that first blush can blossom. It seems like a match made in heaven.

Eventually things grow stale, niceties get taken for granted, calls don’t get returned as promptly, relationships start to seem one-sided, and the parties start to re-evaluate. Sound familiar?

As an insurance professional, you want to keep your client relationships fresh and mutually satisfying. To accomplish that, step back and consider what attracts clients in the first place. It’s a combination of your product line, your expertise, your attentiveness, your attitude, your value-added services. It’s client service.

With this analogy as a backdrop, here are some hard-nosed tips for reinvigorating your client service—and your agency’s attractiveness to clients and prospects:

  • Nurture: Build client relationships over time, leveraging what’s unique about each client. Don’t think in terms of separate transactions.
  • Contact: When a client needs to get in touch with you, make it easy to find your contact information. Put it on every piece of written communication. Because chances are, it could be important to the client at that moment and they don’t have to look for it.
  • Empower: Make sure your staff members know they’re pre-authorized to take reasonable steps to provide consistently excellent client service. The flexibility broadens your range of responses, speaks well of your business, and also builds employee confidence and satisfaction.
  • Promises: Commit yourself to delivering the results you know you can achieve. Then deliver more. Consistent follow-through is critical.
  • Feedback: Ask for performance ratings during meetings. Send out periodic satisfaction surveys. Even hire a third party firm. The data is useful for pinpointing problem areas, and it lets you resolve simmering issues before they explode.
  • Honesty: If you mess up, fess up. Be the obsessively honest agent you would want to do business with.

Viewed through the lens of love, these tips can help keep your client relationships evergreen.

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Should your agency start a blog?

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/

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Health care goes hi-tech in the latest Florida Blue eNews

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.

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Time management: Get more done

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.

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The patient-centered medical home model is making its mark

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.


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Strategies for marketing on a budget

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.

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