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Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information

Google +1's Impact on Your Business

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 @ 09:28 AM

Medicare SupplementsA few months ago, Google introduced their +1 system; you might have seen the new buttons appear next to your search results recently and wondered what it is and how it can help your business. Google +1 is similar to Facebook "Likes", it is a way for your clients to publicly show to their friends and family that they like and recommend you, which can help promote client referrals.

Also, there are signs that Google +1 will affect organic rankings as well. Google +1 allows Google to own a primary source of data, not rely on secondary sources, and these social cues become a core part of the search experience. Websites with a +1 button receive as much as three times more exposure on the Google+ network.

If you’re one of our valued senior market agents and enjoy working with Precision Senior Marketing, let us know by logging into your Gmail account and clicking the +1 button on our homepage @ Precision Senior Marketing.
Precision Senior Marketing

Example of how Google’s +1 feature can help your business:
A friend of your client might search for Medicare Supplements in your hometown, see that their friend +1'd you, and give you a call or fill out the form on your website because of it. Same can happen between complete strangers, as trust will be instilled by knowing that other people have used your service and have seen success with your brand. Once you have a working relationship with your clients, it would be beneficial to ask them to go to your website and click “+1” for you. It’s an innovative way to continue to grow your business online.

Please give us your feedback!
Do you have the Google +1 button on your website? Do you plan to get it? How do you think the +1s will affect Google organic rankings?

Source: Search Engine Watch

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  • Gerber Life Medicare Supplement Rate Increase for MI, MS, NC, NE, and WV - Learn More

Tags: Universal American Medicare Supplement, Success Tips, Web Tips, technology, Medicare Advantage, senior insurance market news, Leads, Forethought Medicare Supplement, industry news, Gerber Life Medicare Supplement

The Upswing of Medicare Supplements

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Jul 22, 2011 @ 09:16 AM

Medicare SupplementsIn the past few years, the senior insurance market has seen tremendous growth. Curious if this would continue to be the case, Bryan R. Neary and his associates launched a study to find out if Med Advantage would trump Med Supp in the next ten years. They found the process more complex than they originally thought, but in the end they saw the Med Supp enrollment increasing in the 10 year time frame. Due to the proposed new health care laws, Neary and his team made conservative assumptions based on what is already known. They took the current Medicare enrollment, a reliable Medicare enrollment projection, the historical changes in the Medicare market, and a realistic Medicare Supplement projection into consideration when compiling their data. The assumptions they used were that the demographics of current Medicare beneficiaries are accurate, there will not be a dramatic shift in the future, lapse and replacement rates will not experience a dramatic change, and annual rate increases will not have a dramatic change.

Neary explained that signs of growth in the Med Supp market include:

  1. Baby Boomers – with this generation comes an influx of 15.4 million over the next 10 years, providing multiple opportunities for Med Supp sales.

  2. Medicare Advantage Reductions –the health care law includes Medicare provisions that will gradually reduce subsidies paid to Medicare Advantage starting in 2012.

  3. Decrease in Retiree Health Benefits – due to the economic times less companies will be able to offer retiree health benefits, by 25% over the past 20 years.

  4. New Medicare Supplement Plans – new plans should be introduced in 2014, eliminating first-dollar coverage. Like with the introduction of Plans M and N in 2010, this will likely create a buzz in the market and generate more sales. He also suggests more lower-cost plans become available, which would open the market to those who previously couldn’t afford it.

Their conclusion is that the Medicare Supplement offers a long-term sustainability. With the opportunities available like Baby Boomers, Medicare Advantage reductions, decrease in retiree health benefits, and the insertions of new Med Supp plans into the market there will be an increase in selling opportunities and, therefore, enrollment.

To review the list of Medicare Supplement companies that we offer, please see our Medicare Supplement carriers.

Please give us your feedback!
Do you agree with Neary's findings? Have you already begun to see an upswing with the influx of Baby Boomers?

Source: InsuranceNewsNet

Additional Updates:
  • Sentinel Life Personal Choice Annuity - Learn More

Tags: senior market news, Medicare News, health care reform, Sentinel Life Medicare Supplement, industry news, Baby Boomers

Aetna Acquires Genworth Financial’s Med Supp Business

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 @ 09:18 AM

Medicare SupplementsOn June 13, 2011 Aetna announced they were acquiring Genworth Financial's Medicare Supplement business and all other related blocks of business. With more than 145,000 Medicare Supplement policyholders, Genworth was a leading provider of Medigap policies through Continental Life Insurance Company of Brentwood, Tennessee. For the block of business, Aetna paid $290 million.

Aetna’s chairman, CEO and president Mark T. Bertolini noted, "By acquiring this business, Aetna will significantly expand its footprint in the Medicare Supplement business." He also went on to explain that this growth comes at an important time, when the Medicare population is set to increase significantly with the Baby Boomer generation turning 65.

The acquisition is part of Aetna's plan to "broaden its product portfolio, add new revenue streams, and address the increasing needs of the senior population", adds Joseph M. Zubretsky. With this new block, they plan to grow their capabilities of Medicare Supplement business including "access to commercial retirees and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members, multi-channel distribution, and other Aetna product offerings", says Zubretsky.

Aetna currently serves approximately 33.8 million people and provides resources necessary for consumers to make informed decisions on their health care. Offering a variety of insurance plans, they cover a variety of individuals from all walks of life - from employer groups to college students. They plan to remain under the same business' current management, staff, and operations based in Brentwood, TN.


How do you feel about Aetna’s acquisition of Genworth Financial's Medicare Supplement business? Do you currently sell Aetna to your Medicare Supplement clients? What is the reception to their product?

Source: BusinessWire


Additional Updates:
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Tags: Constitution Life Medicare Supplement, Marquette National Medicare Supplement, Aetna Medicare Supplement, senior market news, Medicare News, industry news

Lead Sources: Internet, Direct Mail, and Referrals

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 @ 09:38 AM

Medicare SupplementsLeads are an essential part of a thriving business. There are several options available and it can be hard to determine which method will be most effective for your business. Often there is a choice between internet and direct mail lead sources, both having their pros and cons. Also, it’s important to remember to request referrals from your current clients who can provide testimonials to their friends and family.

Here is a more in depth look at the types of leads:

  1. Internet Leads – These are available as either shared or exclusive. Shared leads are more economical, but are sold under the notion that more than one agent has access to the same lead. Therefore, you might be the fourth call a senior has received regarding their Medicare Supplement interest. You will need to bring your "A Game" to every call and draw from examples as to why clients should choose you over the others they have heard from. Exclusive leads are exactly what they sound like – exclusive to you. Though a more costly option, you get what you pay for. Chances are your close ratio will be higher, the senior will not be annoyed by the volume of calls they have received from prospective agents, and you will be able to fulfill their supplemental insurance needs.

    Additionally, leads from your own website fall under internet category. If you are considering creating a website for your agency (especially helpful if you are prospecting over the phone) then be sure to include a short quote form on your main page. This form should request contact information like name, telephone number, e-mail address, and state/zip code. Websites can be as simple as a template site to as complex as something created custom for you from a design agency. Just remember, your website is the face of your agency and it is important to give the right first impression.

  2. Direct mail – These leads are purchased directly though a vender who already has lists and mailing pieces available. You will pay a determined cost per a set number of pieces and choose the area in which to distribute the mailer. Direct mail is a great option, as it is a visual piece that goes directly into the hands of the senior for them to consider. If interested, they will mail a piece back to you or use your contact information provided on the piece. The response rate you receive will be exclusive and the leads are yours to contact further.

  3. Referrals – Don’t forget to ask your clients if they know anyone who is also in need of supplemental insurance. It can be daunting to bring it up; however, by taking social queues from a satisfied client you will see when it is appropriate to ask. Also, it’s important to not to feel uncomfortable doing so – as a good agent who does a lot for your clients there is no reason you cannot ask for referrals. Most likely, they know someone who would benefit from your product portfolio and customer service.

If you have any questions about which lead option is best for your business, do not hesitate to contact your marketing representative at 1-800-998-7715 who will be happy to guide you through the options available.


Where do you get your leads from? What has the most successful method: internet, direct mail, referrals? Have you found your clients are open to your request for referrals?


Additional Updates:

Tags: Sales Tips, Success Tips, Referrals, Leads, Sentinel Life Medicare Supplement, industry news, Gerber Life Medicare Supplement

How the Recession is Changing the Agent’s Role

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Mar 25, 2011 @ 08:45 AM

Medicare SupplementsEven when business is tough and consumers are becoming more selective, there is still a huge potential for agents to increase their commissions and customer portfolios. Plus, for those who are producing more, insurers are beginning to give better leads and the tools to continue to grow their business. "It’s increasing optimization. It’s increasing productivity. For good agents with talent, I would see the opportunities increasing," Marie Carr, principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers Diamond Advisory Services said. Insurers are doing only slightly better than the financial world in this economy; and, they are leaning toward giving more support to those agents writing more business, more profitable business, and more lines of business. Thus, overlooking agents who are not as high of producers. Carr explains, "They’re refining their portfolio of agents."

In recent years consumers have begun to purchase insurance in less traditional ways, selling Medicare Supplements over the phone and online. The pressure is on for agents to keep up with advancing technology. Technology is available to help agents enhance their business relationships, via social networking and online tools, and it will continue to drive business. It’s also important to continue to re-evaluate and define the value of your experience and services to your prospects. Consumers still want to be supported as they make their insurance decisions and it is up to agents to find their niche in the buying process. Once your prospect has become a client, personalized contact is definitely a great way to continue correspondence including handwritten notes, mailers, follow-up calls, and personal visits. Making sure your clients are happy and that they are getting what they need out of their policy is also a great way to continue to get referrals.

The role of the insurance agent is continuing to evolve, spurred from recent advancing in technology and customers looking for the best deals during the recession. Carr states, "I don't believe the agent is going to go away, but i do believe the agent as we understand him or her today is going to be dramatically redefined."


Do you see insurance companies favoring those producers with more business? How has the recession affected your business? What have you done to keep your business successful during the recession?

Source: Agent's Sales Journal


Additional Updates:
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Tags: Medicare Supplement, health insurance industry, insurance news, industry news, Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement, United of Omaha Medicare Supplement

Impact of new MLR Requirements on Underage Health Market

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 @ 12:44 PM

Medicare SupplementsOn March 27th, the Professional Health Insurance Advisors Task force, part of the Executive Committee at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), is planning to hold a hearing on producer compensation in Austin, Texas. During the hearing the task force is requesting comments from all interested people on the following questions:

  • What is or is likely to be the impact of removing commissions from what is defined as premium under the MLR requirements?
  • Have commissions been reduced since the passage of the federal law? If so, what is the impact of present and potential future commission reductions? Will this cause access issues? Is it likely agents/brokers will abandon health insurance markets?
  • What will be the impact of a legislative change that treats producer commissions in the same manner as federal and state taxes for purposes of calculating the MLR?
  • What is your opinion on the optimal solution to balance health plan/insurer concerns, consumer interests and the interests of agents/brokers?
Anyone interested can submit comments to tmullen@naic.org by March 21st to be considered.

Under the new MLR provision, health insurers are now required to spend at least 85% of large group and 80% of individual and small group revenue on quality improvement in health care with the other going toward administrative costs. This will affect nearly 470,000 health insurance agents and cut nearly 50% of broker’s pay. The task force is focused on making sure that the MLR is not going to cause problems that critics have warned about, including smaller companies going out of business, extreme cuts in agent commissions, and reduced service and support to consumers.


Do you currently write underage health insurance? If passed, how will the new MLR requirements impact your business model?

Sources: National Underwriter, Employee Benefit Adviser, National Association of Health Underwriting, National Association of Insurance Commissioners


Additional Updates:
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Tags: Assured Life Medicare Supplement, insurance news, Woodmen of the World Medicare Supplement, health care reform, industry news, Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement

The Push to Establish a Medicare Vouchers System

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Mar 04, 2011 @ 10:26 AM

Medicare Supplements

On Thursday House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan promised to include his Medicare voucher program in his budget cut proposal. The voucher program is controversial and Ryan was firm, stating that those 55 and over will still receive their benefits as they are today. However, in his proposed program, those currently 54 and younger will receive a voucher to buy their own private insurance once they become eligible for Medicare. The voucher amount will depend on a person’s income and health status, with those who have a higher income receiving less.  Those with incomes between $80,000 and $200,000 would get half and those with incomes above $200,000 would get 30% of the $11,000 proposed per-person allocation. He explained this is what Medicare typically pays per beneficiary now and if a person becomes ill and needs more care, more help would be available. Also, the amount would increase with inflation and take both the consumer price index and the medical component into account. If a beneficiary should choose a less expensive plan they could save the extra money in a medical savings account for future medical costs or long-term care insurance. However, a study done by the Pew Research/National Journal found that 69% of people 65 and older (of both parties) oppose replacing Medicare with the voucher system.

What do you think of the proposed Medicare voucher system? How do you think this will affect Medicare Supplements? Will supplemental insurance be sold by the same private insurance companies who accept the vouchers in conjunction with those plans?

House Speaker Boehner Tackles Entitlement Spending

IRepublican Speaker John Boehner has promised President Obama he will stand by him during the political backlash expected by proposing strong cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Boehner acknowledged that Americans have no idea how large the financial problems are for these programs. However, he states that once they understand they will be more willing to accept taking spending precautions in order to keep the programs available for future generations, no matter the iteration. With Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid taking more than 60% of the national budget, trustees estimate they only have sufficient funds to cover Medicare to 2029 and Social Security to 2037. Boehner urges that raising the debt limit is the best way to prevent our economy from going into a tailspin. He also has made it clear Republicans are not going to offer a detailed plan anytime soon. The budget will have cost containment goals, but no clear way on how to achieve them. The Hill noted, Boehner does promise “Republicans will not exploit entitlement reform for political gain if Obama shows leadership on curbing the cost of Social Security.”

Two-Week Budget Extension Signed

On Wednesday, President Obama signed a bill to keep federal agencies open thru March 18, after the Senate’s bipartisan vote to extend spending cut talks. After signing the bill he urged any budget agreement should "cut spending and reduce deficits without damaging economic growth or gutting investments in education, research and development that will create jobs and secure our future." The House takes the position that they already passed a $61 billion package of cuts to cover the remaining seven months of the fiscal year while the only legislation the Senate has produced is the temporary budget measure. Still, Senate Democrats are urging Republicans to bargain and work out a deal to finance the government through September 30th and go beyond to take on larger budget questions. Even with the White House jolting Congress into talks, having a compromise by March 18th seems lofty and it is predicted at least one more extension bill may be necessary to reach a consensus.

Forethought Medicare Supplement Now Approved in Nebraska

Forethought Medicare Supplement is now approved in Nebraska. Please contact your marketing representative at 1-800-998-7715 for more information.

 

Sources: KHN, The New York Times, Forbes, The Hill, The Wall Street Journal

Tags: senior market news, health care reform, Forethought Medicare Supplement, industry news

Health Care Law Aims to Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 @ 09:33 AM

Medicare SupplementsThe New England Journal of Medicine released a study on Medicare recipients finding themselves back in the hospital less than 30 days after their original discharge in 2003 and 2004. The study found one in five of these patients was readmitted and as many as three-quarters of those could have been prevented.  The best way to avoid readmissions is coordinating care from the hospital to those responsible for the next phase of the patient’s recovery. Confirming the patient has the best medicine, knowledge of proper diet, and follow-up appointments is crucial to overall recovery and to prevent their hospital readmission. MedPAC estimated that in 2005 hospital readmission cost Medicare $15 billion, $12 billion of which could have been prevented with the proper knowledge of the patient and their care taker. The proposed health care law hopes to reduce these costs by penalizing hospital with a higher than expected readmission rate starting with 1% of Medicare payments in 2012 and increasing in the next years.

Some hospitals already have a post-care transition program in process, including Piedmonth Hospital in Atlanta. At Piedmonth Hospital, patients schedule their follow up appointment while still in the hospital, receive a form describing why they were in the hospital and what they can do for their recovery at home, any diet and exercise restrictions, and within three days of their discharge a nurse calls to check on their progress. This process has paid off, reducing patients under 70s readmission from 13 to 4% and those over 70 from 16 to 11%.

What do you think of the way the Piedmonth Hospital in Atlanta is handling readmissions? Do you think cutting payments to hospitals will help them to follow suit?

Study Shows Elective Surgery in Medicare Beneficiaries Varies by Region

In a study from the Dartmouth Atlas Project of elective procedures in patients over 65, and receiving Medicare, the researchers found regional differences in the way doctors treat their patients. Shannon Brownlee, of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, explains that this difference is “the by-product of a doctor-centric medical delivery system.” The study focused on Medicare data from 2003 to 2007 on the rates of some elective procedures, from mastectomies for breast cancer to carotid artery surgery and found that doctor’s opinions on the surgeries varies greatly by cultures of care, how doctors are trained, and the history of where there medical practice is established. This finding suggests that patient preferences are not necessarily being taken into account when they should be.

What do you think of the findings of this study? Do you think Medicare beneficiaries should be more involved in their care, no matter what region of the United States they live in? Or do you think doctors should make the right choice for their patients?

"Pie Chart" by Nick Anderson, the Washington Post

Pie Chart by Nick Anderson
"Pie Chart," Nick Anderson and the Washington Post Writers Group in conjunction with the Cartoonist Group

Assured Life Medicare Supplement Now Available in Virginia

Effective February 23, 2011 Assured Life Medicare Supplement Plan N is available in Virginia – please see the Assured Life Plan N Virginia Notification and Assured Life Plan N Virginia Rates.


Why Sell Medicare Supplements Over the Phone

Also - Discover the pros of selling Medicare Supplements over the phone in our blog post.

 

Sources: KHN, Routers

Tags: senior market news, Medicare News, Assured Life Medicare Supplement, health care reform, industry news

Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement Plan N Changes

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Thu, Feb 03, 2011 @ 10:04 AM

Mutual of Omaha has announced underwriting changes to their Plan N Medicare Supplements. This will affect all Mutual of Omaha companies including United World and United of Omaha. Exceptions will include New York, where health questions may not be asked (per state regulations) and in open enrollment or other guarantee issue situations where health questions normally do not apply.

New Application (Required after February 16, 2011)

The underwriting changes will also bring about new applications. Where the new applications are already approved, the new underwriting guidelines will be effective with applications signed on or after February 16th 2011. The states are where the new applications have already been approved are:

United World: AL, MD, MN, MT, ND, NJ, NM, PA, UT & WY

United of Omaha: AR, AZ, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MI, MO, MS, NC, NH, OH, OK, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV & WI

Commission Changes

This change will also affect commissions on Plans M and N. Mutual of Omaha will have new commission schedules available shortly, but you can expect commissions on all plans to be uniform.

Here is a link to the announcement from Mutual of Omaha and more detailed information.

Even with these changes, Mutual of Omaha will continue be a leader in the Medicare Supplement marketplace. That being said, this will open up many new doors to other Medicare Supplement companies that want to offer guarantee issue or limited underwriting plans.

Tags: Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, industry news, Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement, United of Omaha Medicare Supplement

Further Delaying Medicare Pay-Cuts for Doctors

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Dec 10, 2010 @ 11:16 AM

Medicare SupplementsOn Wednesday the Senate agreed to avoid planned steep cuts in Medicare pay for doctors by shifting money from the President's health care overhaul law to cover it. When passing the health care laws, Medicare cuts were used to pay for most of the cost and now lawmakers are reversing the money to delay the scheduled 25% cut to doctors, which would have begun January 1, 2011. This measure was important in stabilizing Medicare as an estimated two thirds of doctors were planning to stop taking new Medicare patients under this cut. This would also affect Tricare recipients, which covers military service members and their families as well as retirees. The $19 billion to pay doctors in 2011 will come from tightening the rules on tax credits in health care laws to prevent wasteful spending. Lawmakers will use the next year to come up with a way to pay doctors for quality care instead of quantity of tests and treatments. These doctor pay cuts are part of a 1990 budget-balancing law, which was an attempt to keep Medicare spending in line using automatic reductions. President Obama has said it is time for a permanent solution and not another temporary fix and he looks forward to working with Congress on this next year.

Fears of Possible Backlash to ACOs

Beginning in 2012 accountable care organizations (ACOs), which are groups of doctors and hospitals that coordinate efficient, quality care to Medicare patients, will be formed. This week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) warns that there might be a backlash in the ACO-assignment process, with beneficiaries feeling pushed into certain managed care without seeing any benefits in the change. In order to entice beneficiaries, they might need to offer incentives like reduced beneficiary cost sharing or sharing in the savings; as well as, offering the choice to switch from an assigned primary care provider to another not in the ACO program. Also, the American Medical Association said the government needs to make safe harbors from antitrust enforcement and anti-kickback laws as currently laws favor hospital-based systems with employed physicians as opposed to small physician practices.

Cold and Flu What Works and What Falls Short

As winter begins in the next few weeks, cold and flu season is out in full force, which puts a damper on our busy schedules. Emily Sohn and Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H.'s research on what works and what falls short is good to keep in mind as your throat becomes itchy.

The first suggestion of what works is Vitamin D. Laboratory studies have indicated that Vitamin D may help your immune system to identify and destroy bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. However, the Institute of Medicine released a report on November 30th stating that Vitamin D is best for bone health and there is not yet enough evidence that improves immunity and reduces infection. Still, many experts recommend a vitamin D supplement or you can also get it from fatty fish, fortified milk, and from the sun. Another suggestion to try is green tea, which has potent plant antioxidants that gives it immune-boosting effects. Lab studies suggest that polyphenols called catechins may kill influenza viruses and to maximize the benefits you should use below-boiling water, steeping green tea no more than a couple of minutes, and adding only a little lemon or honey to help the bitterness (adding milk will bind the polphenols, making them no longer effective). Probiotics (or “good bacteria") have been shown to suppress the bad bacteria and activate the immune system when they reach the lower intestine. However, although the level probiotics boost the immune system is low, you can help by eating yogurts or kefir labeled with a "Live & Active Cultures" seal. The last suggestion is soluble fiber, which can help fight inflammation. Eating a lot of citrus fruits, apples, carrots, beans, and oats helped mice in a recent study from Brain, Behavior, and Immunity recover from a bacterial infection in half the time than the mice that ate a mixed fiber diet.

The two things that fall short are Airborn and Glaceau's Vitamine water "Defense." Airborn contains excess of 1667% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C. With the exception of smokers, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and the elderly most people get enough of the nutrients (vitamins A, C, E, zinc, and selenium) in the supplement with the food we eat. Adding more to our diet is not always better; in fact, it can be ineffective. Additionally Glaceau's Vitamine water “Defense" claims to be formulated with the nutrients required for optimal functioning of the immune system; however, a 20-ounce bottle contains 150% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C. The bottle of water also has 125 calories.

Forethought Released in Texas

Effective December 10, 2010 Forethought is released in Texas - please see the Texas Rates and Application or call 1-800-998-7715 to get contracted.

 

Sources: KHN, The Associated Press, The Hill, EatingWell

Tags: senior market news, Medicare Supplement, health insurance news, industry news

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