Help

Email Marketing 101 for the Insurance Professional

Times are changing, fast. In the last few years the insurance agent client relationship has changed in a big way. With the development of incredible communication tools it is easier than ever to keep in touch with all of your clients on a personal basis. With tools like a website, email, and social media you can keep your clients in the know while finding new potential clients. Today we will look at email marketing in depth and see how it can be used to keep your old customers and foster new clients.

Email marketing has been around for over two decades, but the tools has gotten considerably better over the years. Now with tracking you can truly understand what your clients want to know more about and what they don’t care about anymore. 

Keeping Up with your Clients

The first thing you should make sure that you need to be doing is keeping in touch with your clients on regular basis. Having a weekly or monthly newsletter just to keep up and make sure they know all of the benefits available to them. By reaching out to your clients and keeping them up to date on benefits, new plans, or just a place for them to email you back and ask a question.

Keep your newsletters short but informative. Have around 5 pieces of content in each newsletter, and explain new things in a language that your clients will understand. By being transparent you will make a strong connection with your customers that will keep them loyal for years to come.

Fostering New Relationships

Keeping up with your current clients is only part of the equation for email marketing. The real potential in email marketing is reaching out to people that are not yet clients to show to them why they need to become your customers. By reaching out to these potential clients and informing them about the perks of signing up with you they will understand what makes you the superior choice to be their agent. 

In this newsletter make sure to include interesting and informative articles and videos on the plans you offer, on the benefits of your company and a simple and easy way that they can contact you for more information. 

Use the Data

After you have sent your emails you need to look into the data and see what interested your subscribers and what they don’t care about. By keeping a constant eye on the data you can easily tweak what you send to be more interesting to your readers. If you do it right people will be excited to get your emails and be interested in what you have to say.

Conclusion

By using email marketing to its fullest you can cultivate the relationships you already have and create new potential relationships so that you can grow your business in a way that was never possible before. 

If you are open and honest in your newsletters you will connect with your subscribers in ways that were only dreamed of years ago, which will lead to real gains in your bottom line.

Want to learn more about how to do email marketing? You can read more about email marketing here.

Azriel Ratz, CEO of Ratz Pack Media, is an expert in social media, email marketing, and online advertising. He has been working in the industry for several years. If you have any questions or comments about this article contact him directly at ARatz@RatzPackMedia.com.  

How To Use the BenefitCompare Tool - Webinar

Our goal at BenefitCompare is to create an effortless user experience for health insurance brokers when comparing plans for their clients.  We have a simple user-interface, extensive help resources, and unlimited customer service to help you in navigating the tool.

Covered CA Mailing Regarding 2016 Subsidy Eligibility

On August 14, 2015, Covered California sent letters to members who currently receive subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.  The letter advised them that they must give their consent for Covered California to verify their income and family size to determine their subsidy eligibility for their health plan in 2016.

 
 

MEMBERS MUST PROVIDE THEIR CONSENT BY:

  • Calling Covered CA at 1-800-300-1506 or by
  • Logging into their www.CoveredCA.com account and following the instructions in their letter

If members do not provide the necessary information to Covered CA by the 9/30/15 deadline, their subsidy will end on 12/31/15.

3 Ways To Input Census Data

The census starts your client file on BenefitCompare and is required to use our budget and reporting tools. When deciding to add a census, you have three different ways to get census data into the system quickly & easily.

Import File

If your existing census data is saved as a file on you computer, you can get your file’s data into the Benefit Compare system by clicking “Import File.” it will accept Excel spreadsheet (xls, or xlsx) files.  

Add Clipboard

If you have existing census data as text, you can copy the text to your computer’s clipboard and click on the “Clipboard” option where you’ll be able to cut-and-paste a tab-defined or csv file. Easy formatting instructions are on the following page.

Typing In A Census

If you only have a few people in your census, the easiest way might be to manually input your data. Click on the “Type Census” button and follow the direction on the following page.

Client Management Page

On the “Client Management Page” you can create new client files and access your existing client files in your Benefit Compare account.

First, the system automatically generates a new generic client company name along with a numeric value. To customize the new file name, you can click on the company name text, and personalize the data for your group. Once you are satisfied with your changes, click OK.

To create a new client, click on “add a new client” to begin importing census information.

To view your existing clients in the database, click “View All” to view your entire client file list.

To locate a specific case file in the database, you can search by name and your case file will be displayed below.

To customize or view the selected group’s contact information, click on the gear icon.

To delete a company, click on view all and select the company name.  This will bring you to company the overview page where you can click remove.

To log off your account at any time, you can click on the X.

Transition Relief for Small Employers Expires June 30, 2015

One of our favorite colleagues, Fred Cartier, provided some useful content regarding the relief offered to some small employer groups.

The Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services have each issued frequently asked questions stating that employer payment plans (sometimes referred to as premium reimbursement plans) for individual health insurance coverage fail to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Employers that violate this rule are subject to an excise tax of up to $100 per day ($36,500 per year) for each affected employee.   While small organizations are not subject to the ACA’s “shared responsibility” employer mandate to provide coverage or pay a penalty, if they do provide health coverage it must meet a range of ACA coverage requirements.

IRS Notice 2015-17   Issued on Feb 18, 2015, provides transition relief for small employers that used premium payment arrangements for 2014; small employers also will not be subject to penalties for providing payment arrangements for Jan. 1 through June 30, 2015. These employers must end their premium reimbursement plans by that time. Small employers are employers that are not Applicable Large Employers under § 4980H (generally less than 50 full time and full time equivalent employees in prior year). Relief was not given for large employers (those with 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents). Large employers are required to self-report their violation on the IRS’s excise tax form 8928 with their quarterly filings.

Higher pay in lieu of offering health insurance is permissible, as long as the money is not specifically designated (required) to be used to pay for premiums.  However, doing so increases the employees taxable income.  To offset the tax implications It may be possible that an employer can use a payroll vendor to set up post-tax payments to carriers for monthly premiums.  However, the best option may be to implement a group health plan accompanied by a Sect 125 POP plan. 

Large Group Employer Mandate IRS Compliance

If you are an employer with more than 50 employees, there are ACA compliance actions you need to take now.  These changes went into effect on January 1st, 2015 due to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

To satisfy the IRS reporting requirements, you'll need to start tracking employee work hours, wages, and coverage in order to complete twelve months or more of reporting before the filing deadline.

Your payroll service provider should be able to help you with tracking, compliance, and filing the appropriate forms at the end of the tax year.

The new information reporting systems will be similar to the current Form W-2 reporting systems in that an information return (Form 1095-B or 1095-C) will be prepared for each applicable employee, and these returns will be filed with the IRS using a single transmittal form (Form 1094-B or 1094-C).

Employers must file these returns annually by Feb. 28 (March 31 if filed electronically).  Therefore, employers will be filing these forms for the 2015 calendar year by Feb. 28 or March 31, 2016.

A copy of the Form 1095, or a substitute statement, must be given to the employee by Jan. 31 and can be provided electronically with the employee's consent.  Employers will be subject to penalties of up to $200 per return for failing to timely file the returns or furnish statements to employees.

The filing requirements are based on an employer's health plan and number of employees.

As you can see, the reporting requirements are a bit more complex for larger employer groups so be sure to consult your payroll provider and CPA throughout the year.  If you enjoy reading the details yourself, we've included more resources above and below:

UPDATE: May 28,2015 - Midsize businesses seek relief from Federal Health Law:
Firms with 51 to 100 workers say the Affordable Care Act will significantly raise their costs, so they are pushing for an exemption.  Read more in this article from the Wall Street Journal:

BenefitCompare User Guide for Agents/Brokers

To begin using BenefitCompare, you will need to register.  You can start this process by clicking on the green “Free Trial Signup” button.

Proceed to enter your First Name, Last Name, Company Name, Email Address, and then create a Password.  You will receive this message (below) once completed and can “click here” to continue.

Then log in with your newly created username and password.

Choose the “+new client” button and then add the census for the group you’re quoting.

Click on “New Company” on the top left corner to fill in the company profile details.

Now you can edit the the information about your company.

Click next to start filling out your census.

To add a census, you can do this in one of 3 easy ways: by importing a File, using the Clipboard (Copy-and-paste census fields directly from a spreadsheet or text file), or you can manually type/enter the Census of employees.

If you choose to type the information yourself, you will enter the employee’s first name, last name, date of birth, zip code, and email. 

If you have employees with dependents, click on the “Dependent +” button on the menu to the left. Each employee’s dependent will need to be added in the same format – dependent’s first name, last name, date of birth, zip code, and email. Use the indent and outdent function to toggle between employee and dependent.

Select Current Plan:

You will then have the option to “Select [their] Current Plan” by clicking the link to the right of each employee/dependent.  This will provide a point of reference when comparing/viewing other plan options.

The health plan options may seem daunting, but you can “unselect“ the checkboxes and select exactly what they currently have: 

  • Carrier
  • Market
  • Plan Type
  • Metal Tier

You can choose to select one plan if all employees are on the same plan or you can individually select each health plan for each employee.

Once you have the company’s employees entered (and dependents, if applicable) and select their current plan, you will select “next” to move to the next screen.

Create a Portfolio of plans for your client.  

Creating a Plan Portfolio

You have complete flexibility to create a portfolio of products for your client to review.  Employees ultimately choose their plans from the portfolio which you compile, so you may want to offer a few diverse options to suit varying needs.

You can choose as many plans as you want for the quote.  Think about adding an HMO, PPO, and HSA option for the client to view the benefits and cost options.  

You can change the carriers you view by clicking on “All Carriers” and electing the carrier(s) you would like to view to narrow down the options (since there are over 400 plans to choose from).

Rate Adjustment

After you’ve selected the plans of your choice. BenefitCompare will configure the rate adjustment.

On the left side, you will be able to see if there are any conflicts with the plans that you have chosen. If there are red crosses on any plan, this indicates incomplete rate data and you will need to remove that plan or replace it with one that is valid.

Now, set a monthly premium percentage contribution for your client’s employees.

Budgets and Contributions

Allocating Dollars to Employees

One of the strongest features of BenefitCompare is the budgeting (cost sharing) tool which provides for premium contributions which are reflected across all reports.

You can choose what percentage the employer pays for the employees and dependents.  Once you do this, click the employee link to change the contributions for the employees and dependents.  You can change this as much as you want so the client can get a feel for the cost options. 

Additionally, you can click on “your current plan premium” to toggle between your current plan, pick a plan, or as a percentage of any plan.

Report

After the budget configuration, BenefitCompare will compile all of your information into a user friendly report.

All the plans that have been chosen will be displayed side by side for comparison. The deductible, maximum, copay, coinsurance, and pharmacy copay will be displayed adjusted for contribution. The member premium section will display the employees’ and dependents’ contributions.  Here you can add more members as needed. 

Click on any of the names and an estimated minimum, maximum, and average of each of the plans will display.

The “Benefits Budget” section will display the total premium cost, the employer contribution, and the employee contribution. Use the slider on the right to adjust the percentage of contribution by both parties.

Finally, unique to BenefitCompare is the Claims Model. This graph displays your best option including the probability of Low, Medium, and High usage of the plans regardless of how many employees are under said plan. Then it calculates the likelihood of one, two, or multiple claims. Using this information, the graph will display which plan is the best option at various claim levels from zero to high.

Access Codes for Employee Profile Questionnaire

At any point in the process, you can click the HOME button (bottom left of page) and then click on the company you’re currently working on, and it will display the list of employees in the census and the access code assigned to each employee.  You (the agent) can provide these access codes to the employees or give them to the Employer to give to his/her employees for when they log on to www.BenefitCompare.com to complete the questionnaire.

Having employees log in and fill out their own anticipated medical claims history will allow BenefitCompare to make recommendations based on their own personalized needs (health and budget).  They will be able to view the amount that their employer is contributing, along with the plan options available to them.  If they have any questions, there is another User Guide available for Employees (available on our Help resource page and on our Blog: http://www.benefitcompare.com/blog/2015/3/24/employee-user-guide), video instructions, and many more help resources listed on the site.

NOTE:  If the employee logs in with their Access Code, filled out the profile questions, and added a plan to their Cart from their list of recommended (or other) plans offered, it will display their selection when you are logged into your broker account and viewing that company overview.  It will show to the right of the employee’s name under “Selected Plans”.

Help Resources and Customer Service

On Twitter:
@TechHelpBC
@BenefitCompare

Ph: (888) 912-7587

http://www.benefitcompare.com/help/

Support Email:  Chris@BenefitCompare.com
Sales Questions:  Steve@BenefitCompare.com

BenefitCompare Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Does BenefitCompare sell insurance?

No.  BenefitCompare does not sell insurance - our brokers that use the tool do.  If you need a broker that uses our BenefitCompare enrollment/quoting/software tool, we will connect you with a local, licensed agent.  See under “Resources” below for our contact information.

How can BenefitCompare help me?

BenefitCompare empowers brokers and employers to simplify quoting, enrollment, and ACA compliance.  The online portal includes all medical, dental, vision, HSA, and HRA plans, plus much more.  It makes personalized recommendations, making life easier for the broker, saving money for employers.  It helps small businesses easily see how they can expand their benefit offerings without increasing costs to themselves or their employees.  BenefitCompare has an intuitive user interface and incredible customer support!

Consumers can access BenefitCompare through a link and an access code provided by their agent or employer.  Through the portal, BenefitCompare will be able to quote all the carriers in California and compare all the plans offered, based on the individual needs of the consumer.  Employers and employees eliminate the hassle of working with all different carriers to compare plans and benefits and rates.  BenefitCompare has everything in one place!

Using this tool, brokers can increase sales, productivity and client retention, and reduce costs through automation.  It includes insurance rates, provider searches, and plan benefits and types, all on-line in one place, in real time!

I already use Quotit for my Proposals, why would I need BenefitCompare?

BenefitCompare is a better conversation with your clients.  It is a shared experience and not a stack of papers.  It’s portable and it compatible with any mobile device, and looks great on a tablet!

BenefitCompare makes suggestions for best plan options based on premium and anticipated claims.  With over 400 plan options in California alone, BenefitCompare's ability to narrow down the carriers and plans, and estimate total out-of-pocket costs for every individual saves time for both the agent and the consumer.

Is BenefitCompare compatible with CalChoice?

Absolutely.  BenefitCompare has all of the health plans and carrier rates in California, including CalChoice. 

I already work with a General Agent (GA), why would I need BenefitCompare?

BenefitCompare saves you time by administering Decision Support to employees.  It's your portal to your clients to serve them intelligent policy purchases even when you are away.

You will be able to adjust employer contributions, add/remove employees or their dependents, and update your proposal in seconds.  BenefitCompare allows you to include tax savings and defined benefit models in real-time, while you're meeting with your clients, so they can decide which plan will best suit their needs and budget.

How much does it cost?

Only $99/month!  Our low monthly rate is in line with, or below, our competitors, but with a free month (trial) included (no credit card required), personalized quotes based on anticipated medical claims, free unlimited tech support, REFERRALS from consumers needing an agent, and many more features and resources!

How do I get started?

Agents can go to www.BenefitCompare.com and click on FREE TRIAL SIGNUP.  We are so confident that you will be satisfied, we are giving everyone a free 30 day trial to get familiar with the tool.  After clicking “Try Our Tools”, you will then create a user name and password, no credit card required!

To get started quoting a group, log into your account and you can create a new company profile from there and/or import a census (of the group’s employees).

Follow the easy on-screen prompts/instructions and click “next” – BenefitCompare makes it easy to compare plans based on anticipated medical claims and generate customizable, personalized quotes for your clients.

This report will summarize and compare all plans from your portfolio.  Starting with the most critical measurements of deductible and out-of-pocket, the report then compares real world costs based on risk assumption of your group.  These projections are shown on a graph of costs vs. claims.  At the bottom of the report you can see premiums for each member of the group. You may click between monthly and annual figures and print version.

For Employers, you can contact us at BenefitCompare to get in touch with a licensed agent or if you already are working with an agent, you can ask them about BenefitCompare.

For Individuals and Families, give us a call or send an email and we will happily connect you with the resources you need.

What resources are available to me?  How is your Customer Service?

BenefitCompare’s #1 priority is top notch customer service… it’s a source of pride at our company.  We have created many paths to get you the fastest response time possible:

Telephone:

888-912-7587

Email:

Help@BenefitCompare.com  (Tech Support)

Chris@BenefitCompare.com  (Customer Service)

Steve@BenefitCompare.com  (Sales and Business Proposals)

Twitter:

@BenefitCompare (Questions, Sales, or Customer Service)

@TechHelpBC (Tech Support)

We also have a You Tube Channel FULL of great videos to help you understand the process of medical claims, comparing plans, health insurance terms and definitions, the BenefitCompare software tool, and so much more:

And of course, if you are an employer, employee, or individual, your Agent/Broker is always there to be of service. 

At BenefitCompare, we are constantly striving to improve and we welcome both constructive feedback and happy testimonials!

What are individual and family health plans?

Individual and family health plans are insurance plans that you pay for yourself, which cover the health needs of you and your family.  You get coverage directly rather than through your employer or Medicare.

What are the most common types of health plans?

The most common types of health plans are PPO’s (Preferred Provider Organizations), HMO’s (Health Maintenance Organizations), and POS (Point of Service) plans.  Other plan types include, but are not limited to, Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA’s).

Plans are also categorized into metal tiers, by the average percentage they pay for your health care costs.  There are four levels of coverage: Bronze (60%), Silver (70%), Gold (80%), and Platinum (90%).

As a reminder, you can visit our YouTube channel or website anytime for short, simplified videos to better help you understand these concepts.

How does the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) affect my family?

The ACA mandates that everyone must purchase health insurance (unless you qualify for a hardship exemption) or else pay a penalty, and that the health plan must meet the minimum federal requirements.  Consumers may qualify for premium assistance and/or cost sharing. 

As of the writing of this FAQ, Open enrollment for 2016 begins November 1, 2015 and ends January 31, 2016.

Open enrollment for 2017 and beyond runs from October 1 through December 15 of the year before.

For example, if you want health insurance coverage starting January 1, 2018, you can sign up for that coverage anytime between October 1, 2017 and December 15, 2017.

When Will My Coverage Start If I Sign Up During Next Open Enrollment?

For 2016:

Sign up by December 15, 2015; coverage starts January 1, 2016.

Sign up December 16, 2015 to January 15, 2016; coverage starts February 1, 2016.

Sign up January 16, 2016 to January 31, 2016; coverage starts March 1, 2016.

For 2017 and beyond, sign up any time during open enrollment and your coverage will start on January 1 of the following year.

To enroll outside of the open enrollment period, you must have a “qualifying event” (talk to your agent/broker for more details).  If you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you may still be able to find a short-term policy that will get you covered until the next Open Enrollment Period. 

BenefitCompare makes ACA compliance easy for Brokers, Employers and consumers!

What makes BenefitCompare better than its competitors?

BenefitCompare makes comparing plans a breeze.  We offer a fluid Sales Presentations for Brokers which includes an active Quoting/Proposal Tools that is flexible and customizable!  With the BenefitCompare tool, it creates an interactive experience with consumers.  We have free printable guides, tutorials, You Tube videos, and many more invaluable resources.  There is also a Plans Page available with downloadable PDF’s of ALL the plans, benefits, and rates for every carrier!

We remain a small, close-knit company so that we can keep customer service our number one priority!  Helping you to service your clients efficiently, making plan choices easy, and staying on top of ACA compliance remains our commitment.  BenefitCompare can help you increase sales and improve client retention -- we do the heavy lifting so you can focus your time on keeping your current clients happy and gaining new business.

The value of an Employee Benefit Professional in this post-ACA environment is helping your clients and small groups expand benefits without increasing costs to either the employer or the employee.  BenefitCompare makes this process easy and simplified.

BenefitCompare Employee User Guide

To begin the process, go to www.BenefitCompare.com and use the Family Log In to enter your last name, birthdate and secret code (which is provided to you by your Broker).

At the bottom of the page, you will see the following choices:  Start, Profile, Household, Profile, Medical, Review, and Finish.  You will continue each step by selecting the NEXT button at the bottom right of the page.  If at any time you need to move to another section, you can use the bottom navigation buttons.

You will be creating your Profile with a short survey about your health history (that takes less than 5 minutes).

Household and Dependent Information

Start by entering your household information.  Add any dependents you want on your plan, including their names, birth dates and zip codes.  With the ACA, health insurance carriers now have a rate for each person on a health plan (i.e. Employee, Spouse, or Child) so they need these additional details for each person you are quoting.

NOTE:  Entering your household income is optional.  If you choose to include your Income in this section, BenefitCompare can also calculate the approximate subsidy you might qualify for on the Covered California (ACA) marketplace for Individual enrollments.

Next up, you will answer a short series of questions in the “Your Profile” section, which will enable the system to evaluate the cost of different health plans for you.  You will need to answer the following questions:

Are you (or a dependent) expecting to be pregnant this year?

Do you have a planned surgery for this year?  No?  Outpatient?  Inpatient?  Inpatient over 3 days?

(Next, you have the option to decline health coverage at this point if you would like.  If you continue, the system will help you narrow down plan options and find the best option for you)

Do you already have health coverage through a spouse or parent?

Are you generally healthy, having low and infrequent medical costs?

Medical 

Now that you entered in all of your information (including any dependents), BenefitCompare will help you choose the best health plan for your needs.  In this section, you will see the health plan that BenefitCompare finds to be the best fit for your budget and medical claims.

Additionally in this section, you can manually update Doctor Visits, Hospital, and Prescription Costs.  If you know what your yearly expenses are, it would be best to enter them so that BenefitCompare can truly capture the best plan for you.   

The best plan and the lowest premium plan will be displayed.

BenefitCompare will help make the plan choices easy to understand.  And if your Employer is offering such benefits, you can also select any Voluntary products at this point, such as Dental and Vision.

Once you choose what plan you want, you would select “Add To Cart”.  

Review you product selection and then click “Next” to send your choices to your Broker.  That’s it!  Congratulations!

PLEASE NOTE:  This process does NOT enroll you automatically in a health plan, it sends the selected health plan to the broker so they know which plan you have selected.