Published on March 11, 2014
Understanding Obamacare Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Timeline Focusing on Your Unique Selling Proposition Identifying Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) Improving Your Customer Service Patience Honesty Attentiveness Promptness Create a Consistent, Targeted Marketing Plan Advertising in the Age of Obamacare Online Advertising Billboard Advertising Direct Advertising Community Involvement Radio Advertising Bottom Line How to Remain Consistent in Your Advertising Methods Long Term Marketing in the Age of Obamacare 2 2 4 4 6 6 6 6 6 7 8 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 10
We are entering into a whole new age of health insurance marketing – the age of Obamacare. The rules have changed, the regulations have changed, and we now prepare to enter into the new world of healthcare reform. This of course, is great news for the insurance companies who will beneﬁt from millions of new customers that are now required to maintain health insurance coverage. But what does this mean for you and your agency? And, better yet, what are the new rules when it comes to marketing in the age of Obamacare? To be able to eﬀectively come up with a new marketing strategy you’ll have to be capable of the following: • Understanding the Aﬀordable Care Act and How it Will Aﬀect You • Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition • Focusing on Customer Service • Targeting Your Niche • Coming up with a long term marketing strategy In the following chapters we’ll walk through some of the important regulations regarding The Aﬀordable Care Act, how to compete in the age of Obamacare, and how to set up a long term health insurance marketing strategy.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues of Patient Protection and Aﬀordable Care Act, also commonly referred to as Obamacare, is that no one seems to clearly understand it. Since it’s your job as an insurance agent to help your clients clearly and concisely understand these new laws, it’s time to take a deep look at Obamacare so that you can better understand it yourself. Patient Protection and Aﬀordable Care Act Timeline The Patient Protection and Aﬀordable Care Act was signed by President Barack Obama in March of 2010. Several laws have taken place since then and several more will take place in the next few years. Let’s take a look at what has already happened and what will happen in the future if Obamacare remains in force. March 2010 • President Obama signs the Patient Protection and Aﬀordable Care Act July 2010 • A high risk pool set up by the government to cover high risk adults until insurance plans are required to provide this coverage in January of 2014. September 2010 • Insurers can no longer reject children under the age of 18 for pre-existing health conditions. UNDERSTANDING OBAMACARE
• Adult children up to the age of 26 can be insured on their parents plan as dependents. • Insurance plans can no longer impose an annual of lifetime limit on a policyholders’ beneﬁts. • Insurance companies are no longer allowed to use rescissions to abruptly cancel insurance holder’s policies. • Small business with 25 or fewer employees can receive a tax credit of up to 35 percent. January 2011 • Medicare prescription drug plan donut hole begins to close. • Health Spending Accounts and Flexible Savings accounts cannot be used to pay for over the counter drugs. January 2013 • Medical expense income tax deductions increase from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. January 2014 • Medicaid expanded across the United to Stats to an income level up to 133 percent the poverty line in every state. (Individual states have the power to opt out of the “new” Medicaid regulations) • Health exchanges begin to oﬀer insurance to individuals and small businesses. • Americans who do not have health insurance will be required to pay a ﬁne. The maximum amount is $285 • Adults ages 18 and older cannot be rejected for pre-existing conditions. • Adults under age 30 can buy catastrophic plans for a low cost through health care exchanges. • Insurance plans are required to have “essential health beneﬁts” • Tax credit of up to 50 percent available to small business with 25 or fewer employees. (Expires at the end of 2015)
January 2015 • Americans who do have health insurance subject to a maximum penalty of $975. • Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) can begin making recommendations to cut Medicare spending. January 2016 • Americans who do not have health insurance subject to a maximum penalty of $2,085. January 2017 • States can choose to open health exchanges to large businesses with more than 100 employees. January 2018 • Independent Payment Advisory Boards recommendation about Medicare’s budget can be implemented. • Tax on Cadillac insurance plans begin. The states will play a large role in how the Aﬀordable Care Act is followed through. Each state will have a choice to opt in or out of the new Medicare laws, which state that “new eligibles” will qualify for Medicare if their income falls into 133% poverty line. The states will also individually be responsible for setting up their own health care exchanges. If they choose not to set up a health care exchange then the federal government will set one up for them. The individual states will also decide what role insurance brokerages play into Obamacare, if any.
FOCUSING ON YOUR UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION Currently instead of using brokers the health exchanges will use “health care navigators” to help shoppers understand and purchase their policies online. This could be devastating news for insurance agents. The appeal of the health exchange will leave many clients who once purchased private health insurance to switch to one of the new “more aﬀordable” insurance plans. Retaining your business and earning new business is going to be harder than ever. A lot of changes will take place over the next couple of years and at this point it’s tough to determine how those changes are going to pan out. It could be years before we see the full eﬀect of Obamacare. One things for sure: taking a new approach to your marketing is an absolute necessity. Let’s further explore how you can do this. The age of Obamacare means increased competition for you. Instead of competing against other brokers you’ll now be competing against the government. Millions of uninsured individuals will now be required to purchase health insurance. However, many of these individuals will qualify for Medicaid or a discounted health insurance plan and won’t seek out private health insurance. In the age of Obamacare one of two things will happen to your book of health insurance business. 1. It will dramatically decrease due to millions of individuals ﬂocking to the health exchange market place. 2. You can ﬁnd your unique selling proposition and grow faster than ever. This all depends of how you position yourself.
There are nearly 2 million residents in Georgia but only 100 health care navigators hired to navigate these residents through the online health exchange. There are numbers similar to this among other states as well. This means health exchange customer service is going to be shaky - to put it nicely. Thousands of individuals with question regarding their health insurance plans will go unanswered. Individuals purchasing insurance by themselves will likely not fully understand the policies that they purchase and be in for a rude awakening when it’s time to use their healthcare plans. Customer service will clearly be the health exchange’s biggest weakness. In the age of Obamacare you need to center your health insurance marketing plan on service. This is the one area in which you can knock the competition out of the ball park. Many insured’s would be willing to pay a little extra money for health care if they had a knowledgeable agent or brokerage to guide them through the application process and answer all of their questions. You can be that agent. Your customer service needs to be stronger than ever. Exceptional customer service should deﬁnitely be one of your unique selling propositions but it’s also important to discover what other qualities separate you from the competition. To further uncover your unique selling points consider the following: • What need does your product fulﬁll? • What is special about your product that others wouldn’t be able to duplicate? • Why are you diﬀerent than your competition? Why do customers see you diﬀerently than the competition? IDENTIFYING YOUR UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION (USP)
In order to have a successful marketing campaign of any type you need to know what makes you diﬀerent. What qualities does your product or business have that consumers want or need? Think of your business and products from the consumer’s point of view. Why would they purchase from you instead of someone else? You need to be able to answer this before you can move on to create a successful marketing plan. When coming up with your USP you need to keep in mind that you cannot appeal to everyone. You need to appeal to a speciﬁc group – the group that’s most likely to do business with you because of what you have to oﬀer. Trying to please everyone will only set you up for failure. Now is the time to focus in on what makes you the best ﬁt for a certain customer proﬁle. To help come up with your USP try summing up your business in no more than two sentences. This is referred to as a “tag line” and should be conveyed across all your marketing platforms.
To get your brain ticking here are a few big brands taglines: • M&M’s “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” • Apple “Think diﬀerent.” • Progressive Insurance “Think easier, think Progressive” “Now that’s Progressive. Call or click today” • Geico “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” • FedEx “When it absolutely, positively has to be there over night.” • Bounty “The quicker picker upper.” All of these taglines clearly convey the brand’s message in just a few short words. You should be able to convey your USP in no more than two sentences. Tune into your target market and your products strengths. What would your tagline be? In the age of Obamacare what is most likely to appeal to your target market that you have to oﬀer? When you’re able to ﬁnd your unique selling proposition you’ll be able to diﬀerentiate yourself from the competition, identify your ideal customer, and convey a clear marketing message. The only way you’re going to be able to excel in the age of Obamacare is by focusing on your unique selling proposition.
The customer service that the health exchange has to oﬀer is going to be weak. Customers are going to have a hard time getting their questions answered and many of them will blindly buy the ﬁrst health care plan they see. Disappointment will spark when consumers feel like they aren’t getting the coverage they thought they had and the service they feel like they deserve. Going above and beyond what is expected is a sureﬁre way to drum up your book of business and create lasting relationships with your customer base. Now is the time to heavily educate and train your staﬀ to oﬀer the best customer service possible. There are a few traits that you need to possess as well as every other employee in your oﬃce. The following things are what separate mediocre customer service from exceptional customer service. Patience It can be hard to maintain patience when you’re dealing with a customer who never seems to be happy but it’s essential that you keep your cool. Remain patient with customers. They may have a hard time conveying their questions about the healthcare laws and you need to do your best to help them understand. One impatient episode where you are short with a customer could wreak havoc on your business. Honesty My years in the insurance business have unveiled that customers number one complaint with agents was misleading statements. Don’t
give your customers half-truths. Don’t tell them what they want to hear, tell them what they need to hear in the most polite way possible. Being completely honest with your customer base is the quickest way to earn their respect. Attentiveness When it comes to a complex topic like health insurance, customers need an agent who can attentively listen and address their questions and concerns. You should pay enough attention to your customers to get a sense of their frustrations without them having to spell it out for you. Remember word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing, regardless if it’s good or bad. Promptness To keep your prospects and customers happy you need to answer their questions and return their phone calls or emails as soon as possible. Nobody wants to have their concerns pushed aside. Failing to return customers phone calls will only hurt your business. If you feel like you or your staﬀ are lacking in the customer service department you can improve your customer service skills by doing the following: • Attending customer service training events and seminars • Sending your staﬀ to customer service training events and seminars • Creating a manual on how to answer the phone, greet customers, and answer customer’s questions
• Implementing a dress code • Educate your staﬀ on the new health care regulation, the underwriting guidelines, application process, and features of your health insurance products Never underestimate how far good customer service will go. If your staﬀ can keep your customer’s questions answered and are happy to help out, you’ll be one step in the right direction of marketing in the age of Obamacare. It’s important to note that everyone in your oﬃce should consistently maintain the same excellent level of customer service. If you are excelling at your job as an agent helping prospects out and answering their questions, but they’re greeted by a rude and unhelpful receptionist, your eﬀorts will be defeated. All of the staﬀ need to be on the same page. Think of your oﬃce as a team. Once you are satisﬁed with the level of customer service that you and your staﬀ are oﬀering it’s time to weigh in heavy on marketing.
CREATE A CONSISTENT, TARGETED MARKETING PLAN There are two things we know about Obamacare. If income is 400% within the poverty line subsidies and discounted health insurance are oﬀered through the health care market place. Big businesses with 100 or more employees will not have access to the health exchanges until 2017, if at all. This information helps you pick out your target clients. Individuals who are in the top or above the 400% poverty line and large businesses seem like ideal candidates for the health insurance products you have to oﬀer. You won’t have to worry about tough competition due to the price and you can diﬀerentiate yourself because of the exceptional customer service that you oﬀer. To narrow down your target market even further it’s important that you know your products well. You can further niche down your list by asking yourself the following questions. • What age group is oﬀered the best pricing on my product? • Who are my typical buyers? • Where do my typical buyers live? • Where do my typical buyers hangout? • What type of businesses have I had success with in the past? Once you answer these questions you’ll be able to even further narrow down your list. In order to market to the people on this list try answering the following questions. • What are my prospect’s wants and needs? • How do they feel about healthcare reform? • How can I make them feel better about their health insurance plans?
You can learn about your target market through compiled data. Compiled data is a compilation of consumer information collected from credit bureaus, courthouse records, public domain, internet leads, and more. Compiled data can give you heightened information about your prospects habits and living situations. By using compiled data alongside insurance leads you’ll be able to discover even more information about your target market and create a strong, quality marketing list. After all of these questions are answered you’ll have a sense of what your typical buyer looks like and where he hangs out. Now it’s time to position yourself in front of him. ADVERTISING IN THE AGE OF OBAMACARE In the age of Obamacare you need to be everywhere. And more than being everywhere you need to be consistent with your message. The new health exchange’s unique selling point is price. You can’t compete and even if you could the Aﬀordable Care Act has so much buzz it’d almost be pointless to try. Your unique selling point needs to be service or product related. Once you’ve found your unique selling point it’s time to eﬀectively advertise it and reel the business in. You should focus on a combination of the following types of advertising: • Online Advertising • Billboards • Direct Advertising • Community Involvement • Radio Advertising
You want your message to be everywhere. The average person has to see an ad more than 7 times to remember it. Your message needs to be loud and clear across all of these platforms. Most of all your message needs to communicate your unique selling proposition. Online Advertising Online advertising can be a whole host of ideas. One of the most eﬀective ways to advertise online is through social media. Let’s take Facebook for example. You can create an ad that conveys your message and unique selling point. You can then target who you want to see that ad by age, location, and gender. Now your ad will appear in front of the people most likely to click on it. You should also actively be involved in at least one social media network that your prospects are most likely to use. Don’t use your social network for blatant self-promotion. Instead use it to be involved in the community and to share interesting and relevant information with your target audience. Another eﬀective online advertising method is through Cost Per Click (CPC) ads. CPC ads run by networks like Google will let you create an ad and target who sees that ad according to the area they live in and the information they search for. CPC ads can by far be the most beneﬁcial to reach your target audience. Best of all you only pay for the ad when it’s clicked on. You can also go a bit further with online advertising by adding a blog to your existing website. Adding useful information to your blog in regards to what’s going on in your community, articles on insurance, and new insurance laws will be much appreciated by your customers and keep you from having to answer the same questions repeatedly. You should
also share your blog posts on your social media channels. Blogs are also a great way to improve your rankings within the search engine, therefore getting you found online by possible customers. Billboard Advertising While billboard advertising has died down in popularity it is still a great way to advertise if used in conjunction with other outlets. Your billboard should clearly convey your unique selling point and should be located in an area heavily traveled by your target customers. Direct Advertising Direct advertising entails you sending out letters, emails, and making phone calls to individual prospects. You can create a direct advertising list by ﬁrst narrowing down your target market and using compiled data and aged leads to learn more about the prospect. You will then be able to create custom letters that are far more eﬀective than sending a generic letter to everyone in the phone book. You need to be consistent in your direct advertising campaign. It may take several methods of contact before you interest a prospect in your services. Community Involvement Being involved in your community helps you gain respect, build new relationships, and therefore increase your book of business. You should actively look to volunteer and join clubs within your community. Being involved in your community is perhaps some of the best advertising you can get. People want to do business with those that care and give back. Radio Advertising And last but not least, radio advertising should be added to the mix of things. Find out which radio station your prospects listen to and set up a
short targeted ad to appeal to them. These messages should be broadcast at the times your prospects are most likely to be listening. Do your research beforehand. A little radio advertising can go a long way. Bottom Line To create an eﬀective marketing plan you need to have a strong message and your message needs to be everywhere that your targeted prospects are. By conveying the same consistent tone and message over and over your advertisements are sure to be heard. You’ll gain the attention of those who you want to do business with and turn them into customers. In the age of Obamacare everyone has questions. You want to be the one giving all the answers. How to Remain Consistent in Your Advertising Methods Chances are you’ve seen your fair share of big brand advertising versus small company advertising. Do you ever wonder why the big brand advertising is so successful? Well, you might say that they have a lot of money to put toward advertising. That may certainly be true, but bigger than that they are consistent in their marketing eﬀorts. Big brands convey the same message ﬂawlessly no matter which avenue of advertising they appear on. Their logos are always consistently used. Their tag line is always consistently used. Consumers can instantly recognize a big brand as soon as they hear or see one of their ads. You want your advertising to do the same. Your advertising should cohesively ﬂow from print, online, radio, and billboards. You can do this by incorporating the following ideas into your campaign. • Use the same logo in each form of advertising • Come up with a tag line that conveys your USP and repeatedly use it in each form of advertising
• Target the same group of customers in each advertisement Start small. If you feel like you have more than one group of customers to target, only try one at a time. Pick the group that is most likely to do business with you and focus on them in every form of advertisement. When you are pleased with the results go on to experiment with other target clients. Always remain consistent in your marketing methods. Long Term Marketing in the Age of Obamacare As the next several years unfold you’ll be able to see the full eﬀects of Obamacare on your business. To prevent your book of business from depleting you need to make sure your marketing plans are long term. Experiment with diﬀerent forms of advertising and relay your message (USP) over and over. Customers believe consistency. If you say you’re one thing today and another tomorrow prospects will have a hard time believing you. Find out what makes you diﬀerent from the competition and use that to your advantage. In order to eﬀectively market and sell health insurance you need to know who is most likely to purchase from you. As of today this would be those who do not qualify for a government subsidy or discounted health plan and large businesses with more than 100 employees. Do your homework to niche down your target market even further for optimal success. Advertise in all the places your customers are most likely to be. Switch up your advertising methods every few months but maintain your consistency. If you ﬁnd one avenue of advertising is working exceptionally well for you stick with it. Don’t underestimate the power or great customer service in the age of Obamacare. The health care exchange will be seriously lacking in this department. You need to shine through.
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