Your competitor might have a better product or a better price. You might believe that gives them a competitive advantage, but it doesn’t have to. You can tilt the playing field in your direction.
Work Ethic: You can outwork your competitor. Honestly, it isn’t really going to be all that difficult to do. Most people do what is required of them, not what they need to do to succeed. Your commitment to out-hustle your fiercest competitors alone is enough for you to win. Do the work they won’t do. Do that work when they are sleeping.
People Skills: A person with better people skills can develop the relationships that level the playing field—and level their competitors. The ability to connect, the fact that you are likeable, and the fact that you care can create a preference. All things being equal, being good with people is a serious advantage.
Business Acumen: A better student of business makes a better salesperson. By educating yourself on your business, your client’s business, and the economy more generally, you are likely to know how to create greater economic outcomes. Greater business knowledge and experience is a competitive advantage.
Trustworthiness: Following up on your commitments creates a sense of trust. So does knowing what you are talking about. Being client-focused and working as if you are already part of your client’s decision-making team creates a gap between you and any competitor that doesn’t generate the same level of trust.
Patient Persistence: The willingness to stay the course long after it seems a lost cause levels the playing field, especially when it comes to winning your dream clients. There is a strong advantage in outlasting your competitors. Patient persistence doesn’t mean you hang back. It means you keep taking action over time and, eventually, you win.
Better Sales Skills: Knowing how to sell will never hurt you. Sales acumen is still incredibly important in creating a competitive advantage. Winning by intention instead of through a series of happy accidents is what separates the professionals for the amateurs, and it can tip the balance in your favor in a contest.
Desire to Win: There is no accounting for the desire to win. It is the kind of intangible that appears to be some kind of voodoo. There is something about heart, guts, and the will to win that gives someone who is fighting above their weight class an advantage in a contest.
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
While Medicare Advantage plans added nearly 900,000 members in 2016, enrollment is growing at a slower pace. Still, experts say the future of Medicare Advantage will be lucrative for insurers.
“It's the only safe game in town, in all of health insurance,” said John Gorman, a former CMS official who is now a healthcare consultant in Washington.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage, the private, managed care version of the federal health program for seniors, reached nearly 18.7 million as of Dec. 1, according to the latest federal data.
UnitedHealth, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and Aetna held the throne for the most Medicare Advantage plan members. Enrollment in UnitedHealth's Medicare Advantage plans grew 13.2% to just shy of 4 million members, while enrollment in Aetna's grew 8.9% in 2016. Kaiser Permanente's Advantage plans grew by 5.1%
And Cigna, which was sanctioned by CMS in January for failing to comply with the agency's Medicare rules, only enrolled about 4,000 members in 2016. Because of the sanctions, Cigna wasn't able to participate in Medicare's annual enrollment period, which ran from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. If the Bloomfield, Conn.-based insurer doesn't fix the problems soon, it could see its Medicare membership plummet.
Cigna and Humana were both hit by lower quality ratings, which may deter would-be enrollees from picking their plans.
Medicaid managed care insurer Centene, which has been investing heavily in its Medicare Advantage business, saw enrollment explode to more than 302,000 from about 34,000 last year, largely due to its recent acquisition of Health Net.
While Medicare Advantage enrollment grew 5% in the 12 months since Dec. 1, it has slowed in the last couple of years. It was up 6.8% year over year at the end of 2015 and 9.8% in 2014.
Part of the slowdown can be attributed to funding cuts imposed by the Affordable Care Act starting in 2012 and phased in over the last five years, Gorman said. Those cuts were devised to help offset the cost the ACA exchanges and bring Advantage payment rates in line with traditional Medicare.
Medicare Advantage rates are based on the trends and utilization of traditional fee-for-service Medicare plans and adjusted for plan members' risk scores. Before the ACA, Medicare was paying private plans at a much higher rate than the cost of fee-for-service benefits. They reached a high of 114% of traditional Medicare payments in 2009. But the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said in December that payment rates have evened out.
First and foremost, Happy New Year! We hope everybody had a great 2016 and we look forward to making your 2017 even better.
This week, the Medicare Rights Center released the first in a series of issue briefs on the Medicare program: “Medicare: Strong & Built to Last.”
As we enter a new era of conversation in the health care sphere, it is important to base our conversations and arguments on facts, not fiction. The facts about Medicare are that the program has lifted generations of older Americans out of poverty, has provided life-preserving health care to millions including people with disabilities and serious chronic conditions, and is a proving ground for innovations that look to provide better care and smarter spending with the aim of achieving healthier people.
Highlights of the brief include facts about people with Medicare, the program’s financial future, and stories from the Medicare Rights national helpline.
Medicare Rights will be releasing further briefs on other aspects of the debates surrounding health care and Medicare in the upcoming weeks: the ways the Affordable Care Act interacts with and supports the Medicare program; the impact of various suggested changes to Medicare including privatization through premium support or vouchers; raising the eligibility age; changes to bans on private contracting or balance billing; and other potential structural redesigns.
The most important benefit of setting goals isn’t achieving your goal; it’s what you do and the person you become in order to achieve your goal that’s the real benefit.
Goal setting is powerful because it provides focus. It shapes our dreams. It gives us the ability to hone in on the exact actions we need to perform to achieve everything we desire in life. Goals are great because they cause us to stretch and grow in ways that we never have before. In order to reach our goals, we must become better.
Life is designed in such a way that we look long-term and live short-term. We dream for the future and live in the present. Unfortunately, the present can produce many difficult obstacles. But setting goals provides long-term vision in our lives. We all need powerful, long-range goals to help us get past those short-term obstacles. Fortunately, the more powerful our goals are, the more we’ll be able to act on and guarantee that they will actually come to pass.
What are the key aspects to learn and remember when studying and writing our goals? Here’s a closer look at goal setting and how you can make it forceful and practical:Evaluate and reflect
The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we’ll get there is to know where we are right now and what our current level of satisfaction is. So first, take some time to think through and write down your current situation; then ask this question on each key point: Is that OK?
The purpose of evaluation is twofold. First, it gives you an objective way to look at your accomplishments and your pursuit of the vision you have for life. Secondly, it shows you where you are so you can determine where you need to go. Evaluation gives you a baseline to work from.
Take a couple of hours this week to evaluate and reflect. See where you are and write it down so that as the months progress and you continue a regular time of evaluation and reflection, you will see just how much ground you’re gaining—and that will be exciting!Define your dreams and goals
One of the amazing things we have been given as humans is the unquenchable desire to have dreams of a better life and the ability to establish and set goals to live out those dreams. We can look deep within our hearts and dream of a better situation for ourselves and our families. We can dream of better financial, emotional, spiritual or physical lives. We have also been given the ability to not only dream, but pursue those dreams—and not just pursue them, but the cognitive ability to lay out a plan and strategies to achieve those dreams. Powerful!
What are your dreams and goals? This isn’t what you already have or what you have done, but what you want. Have you ever really sat down and thought through your life values and decided what you really want? Have you ever taken the time to truly reflect, to listen quietly to your heart, to see what dreams live within you? Your dreams are there. Everyone has them. They may live right on the surface, or they may be buried deep from years of others telling you they were foolish, but they are there.
Take time to be quiet. This is something that we don’t do enough of in this busy world of ours. We rush, rush, rush, and we’re constantly listening to noise all around us. The human heart was meant for times of quiet—to peer deep within. It is when we do this that our hearts are set free to soar and take flight on the wings of our own dreams. Schedule some quiet “dream time” this week. No other people. No cellphone. No computer. Just you, a pad, a pen and your thoughts.
Think about what really thrills you. When you are quiet, think about those things that really get your blood moving. What would you love to do, either for fun or for a living? What would you love to accomplish? What would you try if you were guaranteed to succeed? What big thoughts move your heart into a state of excitement and joy? When you answer these questions you will feel great and you will be in the “dream zone.” It is only when we get to this point that we experience what our dreams are.
Write down all of your dreams as you have them. Don’t think of any as too outlandish or foolish—remember—you’re dreaming! Let the thoughts fly and take careful record.
Now, prioritize those dreams. Which are most important? Which are most feasible? Which would you love to do the most? Put them in the order in which you will actually try to attain them. Remember, we are always moving toward action—not just dreaming.Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.
The acronym S.M.A.R.T. means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.
Goals are no place to waffle. They are no place to be vague. Ambiguous goals produce ambiguous results. Incomplete goals produce incomplete futures.
Always set goals that are measurable. I would say “specifically measurable” to take into account our principle of being specific.
One of the detrimental things that many people do—with good intentions—is setting goals that are so high that they are unattainable.
The root word of realistic is “real.” A goal has to be something that we can reasonably make “real” or a “reality” in our lives. There are some goals that are simply not realistic. You have to be able to say, even if it is a tremendously stretching goal, that yes, indeed, it is entirely realistic—that you could make it. You may even have to say that it will take x, y and z to do it, but if those happen, then it can be done. This is in no way to say it shouldn’t be a big goal, but it must be realistic.
Every goal should have a timeframe attached to it. One of the powerful aspects of a great goal is that it has an end—a time in which you are shooting to accomplish it. As time goes by, you work on it because you don’t want to get behind, and you work diligently because you want to meet the deadline. You may even have to break down a big goal into different parts of measurement and timeframes—that is OK. Set smaller goals and work them out in their own time. A S.M.A.R.T. goal has a timeline.
When someone knows what your goals are, they hold you accountable by asking you to “give an account” of where you are in the process of achieving that goal. Accountability puts some teeth into the process. If a goal is set and only one person knows it, does it really have any power? Many times, no. A goal isn’t as powerful if you don’t have one or more people who can hold you accountable to it.
Tags: Goal Setting
We hope everybody had a fantastic 2017 Annual Enrollment Period. Now that the frenzy has calmed down and we settle in for the holidays, it is a great time to think about some cross-selling ideas you can implement with your current clients and newly acquired ones.
Whether it be Hospital Indemnity, Final Expense, or maybe even Dental or Cancer Insurance, there is an array of opportunities to help better protect your clients while earning additional revenue. Below are some great ideas to consider when cross-selling.
29 Ideas to Cross-Sell More Insurance to Current Clients
1) Know the Two Types
Did you know there are two distinct types of Cross Selling situations?
Prospects who already own the product - These people already bought the coverage from a competitor but you’re trying to get the business with your agency.
The key with them is repetition, collecting the x date, good follow-up and selling the benefits of your agency.
Prospects who DO NOT already own the product - These people don’t currently have the type of coverage you’re trying to sell them.
The key with them is product awareness, education, creating a need, identifying interest, and then selling.
These aren’t complete opposites, but they do require different approaches and sales tactics.
If you’re currently treating all cross-sale prospects the same, take a few moments to think about how each one requires a different approach and how you can address it best.
2) Develop an Established Cross-Selling System
It’s great if you read my articles and get a few ideas to implement here. That’s why I write the darn things.
The trouble is that most agents “think” they’re going to use a few new ideas, some of them really do, but very few make changes to the procedures and systems they use in their agency to make process improvements last.
The only way to create lasting success is to establish formal systems for processes in your agency like cross selling.
And this article is the perfect resource to help you put something like that together. Use it and do it!
You don’t have to write a manual, just make a list of what you want to do in each of the most common situations and share it with your staff.
3) Identify the Target Product(s) For Each Customer
Assuming your agency doesn’t specialize in specific lines of insurance, there are probably at least 4 different products that each of your customers could also buy from you.
And there are probably a bunch more that aren’t even relevant to each client.
Find a way to prioritize the best products to cross-sell each client and get this information front and center for your sales and customer service folks.
4) Establish a Tracking System
If your plan is to remember which products are the best cross-sale opportunities for each client, or to just always cross-sell the same one or two lines to everyone you’re not cross-selling efficiently.
Ideally, you’d be able to pull up any of your client’s accounts and see, at a glance, what products are the best cross sale opportunities for them. Having information like this top of mind when you’re looking at a client’s account will make a huge impact in how often your salespeople bring up the cross sale conversation.
In addition, it’s also great if you could pull up a list of all the clients who are prospects for each type of insurance. This is helpful for email, direct mail, or other campaigns that are oriented around awareness of your different product lines.
While we’re at it, you’re also going to need a way to keep track of X-dates for each month.
5) Handle Immediate Needs First
Be careful not to push cross-sales too hard during an initial sale.
It’s fine to plant seeds, but your prospects aren’t remotely interested in buying a second product from you until they know you can take care of the first one.
I’ve witnessed a lot of agents pushing too hard for additional lines when it’s clearly obvious the prospect only has one thing on their mind.
Respect your prospect, listen to your prospect, and put their immediate needs first.
Everyone wants to start a business and increase sales as their business grows. "The key is not to call the decision maker. The key is to have the decision maker call you." - Jeffrey Gitomer
In this article, I will list out 25 of the most effective sales techniques anyone can implement in their business to increase sales and make more profits. Increasing sales volume is not just enough. You need to increase profits as well.
Strategy 1: Use Content Marketing
A few years back, when you had a product or service to sell what did you do to get the word out? You tried press releases, television ads, paper ads, cold calls, banner ads, display hoardings and any other means you could afford. Business went to those who had the largest marketing budgets.
Fast forward to present day, people are no longer paying attention to the thousands of marketing messages that they come across each and every single day. With internet usage on the rise and people becoming more aware, all of these traditional marketing approaches are weakening day-by-day.
Individuals who embrace relationship marketing has already understood the power of content marketing. As compared to traditional methods of marketing, content marketing means getting found by prospective customers rather than trying to push your product or service to the uninterested masses.
With content marketing, there is a host of benefits:
You should embrace content marketing, not just for the benefits. Although it takes time, it’s what works very well now, and probably the only marketing technique that will work in the future.
Strategy 2: Use Upsells Effectively
If you are not using upsells, you are leaving money on the table. How many times have you ordered fries just because the sales guy asked you “would you like fries to go along with it?” or perhaps you were given a discount on something when you already made a purchase?
Upsells are very useful to increase sales. Once they buy from you and are in a buying mood, it’s easier to close an additional and related sale.
Strategy 3: Create a Product / Solution Which Has Demand
"Supply always comes on the heels of demand." – Robert Collier
This is a no brainer. Understand what your customers want. Is there some product already in the market that delivers the solution to your prospective client? If not, provide it.
If there is already a product or a solution, try to think of a better way to satisfy the needs of the customer. This can be in the form of a better quality product. You can even bring about a twist in the actual offering to make your product more attractive.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2017 premiums for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.
Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles
Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.
On October 18, 2016, the Social Security Administration announced that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits will be 0.3 percent for 2017. Because of the low Social Security COLA, a statutory “hold harmless” provision designed to protect seniors, will largely prevent Part B premiums from increasing for about 70 percent of beneficiaries. Among this group, the average 2017 premium will be about $109.00, compared to $104.90 for the past four years.
For the remaining roughly 30 percent of beneficiaries, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B will be $134.00 for 2017, a 10 percent increase from the 2016 premium of $121.80. Because of the “hold harmless” provision covering the other 70 percent of beneficiaries, premiums for the remaining 30 percent must cover most of the increase in Medicare costs for 2017 for all beneficiaries. This year, as in the past, the Secretary has exercised her statutory authority to mitigate projected premium increases for these beneficiaries, while continuing to maintain a prudent level of reserves to protect against unexpected costs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work with Congress as it explores budget-neutral solutions to challenges created by the “hold harmless” provision.
“Medicare’s top priority is to ensure that beneficiaries have affordable access to the care they need,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “We will continue our efforts to improve affordability, access, and quality in Medicare.”
Medicare Part B beneficiaries not subject to the “hold harmless” provision include beneficiaries who do not receive Social Security benefits, those who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017, those who are directly billed for their Part B premium, those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and have their premium paid by state Medicaid agencies, and those who pay an income-related premium. These groups represent approximately 30 percent of total Part B beneficiaries.
CMS also announced that the annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries will be $183 in 2017 (compared to $166 in 2016). Premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans are already finalized and are unaffected by this announcement.
Medicare Part A Premiums/Deductibles
Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.
The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,316 per benefit period in 2017, an increase of $28 from $1,288 in 2016. The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. Beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $329 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization ($322 in 2016) in a benefit period and $658 per day for lifetime reserve days ($644 in in 2016). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $164.50 in 2017 ($161 in 2016).
Enrollees age 65 and over who have fewer than 40 quarters of coverage and certain persons with disabilities pay a monthly premium in order to receive coverage under Medicare Part A. Individuals who had at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate, which will be $227 in 2017, a $1 increase from 2016. Uninsured aged and certain individuals with disabilities who have exhausted other entitlement and who have less than 30 quarters of coverage will pay the full premium, which will be $413 a month, a $2 increase from 2016.
Where Does Donald Trump Stand on Medicare?
By Emily Gurnon, Next Avenue
Donald Trump: The GOP platform advocates a “premium support model” for Medicare that would “guarantee to every enrollee an income-adjusted contribution toward a plan of their choice, with catastrophic protection.” In other words, privatization. Republicans would “save Medicare by modernizing it,” the platform says.
But Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen on June 20 quoted Trump as saying, during the primaries, “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years.”
“Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social
Chief Trump policy adviser Sam Clovis, however, said in May that a Trump administration would consider trimming Medicare benefits, according to the Wall Street Journal. “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Clovis reportedly said. “We’ll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way.”
Prescription Drug Costs
Total U.S. prescription drug sales in 2015 were more than $419.4 billion — 11.7% higher than in 2014, according to research published in May in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. You don’t have to tell that to American consumers, especially older adults, who are dealing with rising prescription drug costs. A 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that three-quarters of Americans believe prescription costs are unreasonable.
Donald Trump: He stunned Republicans by calling in January for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, joining Clinton and Bernie Sanders in that proposal. Trump said it hasn’t been done thus far because politicians are beholden to pharmaceutical industry donations. But with his negotiation skills, he could accomplish it, he said, claiming this change would save billions of dollars. (Current law doesn’t allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies.)
Like Clinton, Trump has also called for a change in U.S. law to allow importation of drugs from foreign countries, including Canada, to save Americans money. One big problem with that idea: Critics say there is no way to guarantee that the drugs aren’t counterfeit or contaminated.
Low inflation and something called hold-harmless provision are to blame.
Look out, high earners: Nearly a third of all Medicare beneficiaries, including those with higher incomes, are likely to face a steep increase in their premiums next year.
They have low inflation and something called the hold-harmless provision to blame. Social Security on Tuesday said its cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, will bring a 0.3% increase for Social Security checks beginning in January, based on Tuesday’s consumer price index report.
The hold-harmless provision of the Social Security Act says Medicare can pass along only up to the dollar increase in the cost-of-living adjustment to the estimated 70% of all beneficiaries who will qualify for hold-harmless treatment in 2017.
Because a 0.3% increase in the cost-of-living adjustment would translate into a $4 raise in the average Social Security payment, this would effectively cap the average Medicare Part B increase at $4, said Dan Adcock, policy director at the nonprofit National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare. Medicare Part B covers doctor visits and other types of outpatient care.
This means that Medicare must spread much of the projected increase in its costs across the remaining 30% of beneficiaries who aren’t covered under hold harmless. This group includes not only high earners, but also those who receive Medicare, but have deferred or aren’t eligible for Social Security benefits, and those who are new to Medicare in 2017.
It also applies to lower-income Medicare beneficiaries whose premiums are paid by state Medicaid programs. In the latter case, the increase would be paid by Medicaid, said Tricia Neuman, director of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicare policy.
The final premium increase won’t be announced immediately—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, last year released it in November. However in June, the Medicare trustees projected that with a 0.2% COLA, the standard premium for the 30% who aren’t covered by hold harmless could rise by as much as 22% to $149 a month.
With a 0.3% COLA, “presumably their premiums will rise to less than $149 a month, but it’s hard to know how much less,” said Paul Van de Water, senior fellow at the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The highest earners within the 30% would pay more. The Medicare trustees projected—based on a 0.2% COLA—that individuals earning between $85,001 and $107,000 and couples earning between $170,001 and $214,000 would have their 2016 monthly premiums rise from $170.50 a person this year to about $204.40 in 2017. For those earning more than $214,000, or $428,000 for couples, the report projected an increase to about $467.20 a month, from $389.00 in 2016. Again with the 0.3% COLA, those increases are likely to be lower.
Last year, when the Social Security COLA was zero, Congress staved off an initial 52% premium increase for Medicare beneficiaries not covered by the hold-harmless provision via a deal in the budget agreement that raised their premiums by 16% instead.
Mr. Adcock said Medicare law gives Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell “some discretion to use Part B trustee fund reserves” to reduce the premium increase for this group this year. “Whether she will have the flexibility to do that remains unclear to us,” he added.
In a statement Tuesday, CMS said it is “currently reviewing the Social Security cost of living adjustment amount and other data. As in prior years, Medicare Part B premiums will be announced this fall.”
If Ms. Burwell doesn’t take action, Mr. Adcock says his group will lobby Congress to intervene. He says he expects affected groups—including state governments whose budgets could be burdened by the projected increase for lower-income Medicare beneficiaries whose premiums are paid by state Medicaid programs—to push for a fix. Medicare is jointed funded by the federal and state governments.
Medicare covered 55 million people last year, according to the trustees’ report. Part B covered nearly 51 million. In 2017 Medicare is expected to have 58 million total participants and 53.5 million in Part B.
A sign supporting Medicare is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2015. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Great AEP Opportunity
The Annual Enrollment Period is underway and now is a great time to make sure you making the best of the opportunity. During the AEP many successful agents double and even triple their income by offering ancillary products. Don't miss the opportunity to help secure your clients with the best coverage while growing your revenue at the same time.
Below are some of the ancillary products that we recommend you consider when speaking with your clients this AEP. If you need assistance with sales ideas and product positioning, give us a call and one of our experienced representatives will provide you with some great ideas.
Hospital indemnity Plans
Provides your clients a plan that helps cover the gaps that Medicare Advantage leaves behind. These plans are designed to help alleviate out of pocket expenses associated with health plan gaps. This is a great add-on sale and can be presented with a Medicare Advantage plan if the scope of appointment is completed properly.
Dental, Vision & Hearing Plans
We understanding that your clients teeth, eyesight and hearing are a big part of their quality of life. Problems can be painful, inconvenient and expensive. DVH is an affordable way to help pay for these expenses. Issue ages are 18-89 so it’s a great “add-on” policy to an existing medical or Med Supp policy.
We wish you continued success this AEP. Our staff is available if we can be of assistance.