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Agent Sales News

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.

Source

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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.

SOURCE

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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.

DERIVED FROM

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243517

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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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Improve yourself to improve your business relationships

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.

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Health care goes hi-tech

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.

Source: PWC.com

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Florida Blue helps providers promote member diabetes program

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.

 1 CDC.gov

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Scientific methods to build your customer base

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.

Source: Inc.com

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3 great reasons to register at FloridaBlue.com

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.

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Use these powerful self-service capabilities in BluesEnroll

                                              

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

Other capabilities

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.

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Stay in touch without annoying

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.

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Using other people’s time efficiently

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.

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Cultural competency resources

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.

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Marketing tool for agents: Member discounts at Healthways Fitness Your Way

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.

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