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This week, we welcome Joe Fernandez, from The Benefits Expert (TBX), to the show. Joe explains how TBX created an animated and engaging front end to the traditional online enrollment system. TBX uses media content, decision support, and interactive experience for employees to learn about benefits. It also points out the opportunities to fill the gaps in employees’ core plan with voluntary benefits that sell themselves.

Listen in to learn how TBX recreated enrollment software that engages, educates, and enhances the selling process and which can be provided and customized at no up-front cost. Joe will explain the reasons why his system is a great differentiator for brokers and how his new approach helps to market employee benefits more effectively. Don’t miss this episode!

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • How The Benefits Expert not only enrolls – it helps brokers sell.
  • TBX’s innovative methods of employee engagement, education, and enrollment.
  • TBX’s new simplified way of bundling benefits that increases the take-up rates dramatically.
  • Why these benefit bundles work better than allowing the employees to pick their options.
  • How and why TBX is able to offer their technology at no up-front cost to brokers.

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Today, we welcome  Tony Boquet, vice president of the American College. We begin our wide-ranging interview with a discussion of the Penn Mutual Center for Veteran Affairs. The Center is a scholarship-based program which helps veterans returning from different conflicts around the world to get the education they need to build careers in the financial services industry.

We also discuss new programs and designations on both the life and the benefits side of the business, including some specially targeted to new areas of concentration. We also learn how the college is also keeping up with the times with new state-of-the-art audio and video production facilities, new ways to access content, and more.

In an ever-more complex marketplace, education may be more important than ever. For more than 87 years, The American College has provided a variety of educational tracks geared to benefits and financial services professionals. As a former producer himself, Tony’s perspective and enthusiasm for the forward direction of the college makes for a great and engaging interview. Don’t miss this one!

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • The success stories of two Veterans Program graduates who recently received their master’s degrees.
  • The reasons why the American College and financial services education is more relevant today than ever.
  • All about the new Income Retirement Course and what it entails.
  • The background and details about the new Special Needs designation.
  • How RHU and REBC have morphed into a new designation that reflects the post-PPACA world.
  • The new technology and innovations the College embraced to provide a top-notch education to their clients.

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ShiftShapersCoverArt On today’s episode, we are speaking with Mel Schlesinger, the creator of the LinkedIn Lead System. For many years he has been known as a leader in the health insurance industry and served as the president of the National Association of Health Underwriters. After years of researching and using different types of marketing, Mel has discovered a way of creating an unlimited source of fresh leads. Listen in to find out how you can skip making those dreaded cold calls and tap into this amazing resource by using Mel’s LinkedIn marketing. Don’t miss this insightful episode!

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • Why LinkedIn is a better tool for marketing than cold calling.
  • How you can use LinkedIn as the ultimate lead generation tool.
  • The reasons why LinkedIn is a great referral machine.
  • How Mel’s program differs from other workshops and what skills you can walk away with after completing it.
  • The types of services available from LinkedIn Lead System.

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On today’s episode, we are speaking with Rick Bailey and Amanda Hohenberry of Inrollit. Inrollit is a modern health insurance company that was built on the foundation of a much older model. Rick was asked by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to be a part of his exchange advisory committee.

What Rick discovered caused him to shift the shape of his entire business. We’ll hear from the folks at Inrollit on how they are breaking down the barriers to customer understanding with their new platform. Don’t miss it!

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • Why it’s so easy, as benefit advisers, to forget what it’s like to be the individual consumer.
  • How the internet is the most powerful free marketing tool at your disposal.
  • Why it’s ultimately about creating an environment that is comfortable for the end user and the broker.
  • How they have broken down the new laws for everyday people to understand.
  • Who the market is for the private exchange and where they see it going in the future.

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On today’s episode, we are welcoming Alan Katz of SeeChange Health  to the show. Alan his colleagues at SeeChange Health have been finding great success with a different model and mindset than many of our listeners may be used to
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SeeChange Health was founded in 2008, and since then, they have cultivated and refined a model called “Value-Based Benefit Design”. Today, we are going to be talking about the evolution of the company, and the future of this exciting construct. Don’t miss it!

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • How and Why SeeChange Health was founded.
  • How they provide financial rewards to people who take actions to improve their health.
  • Why traditional health insurance isn’t really health insurance at all; it’s sick insurance.
  • What plans they have for expansion into different states.
  • How Alan sees incentive-based platforms fitting into the landscape moving forward.

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The Shift Shapers Podcast Launches April 15, 2014

ShiftShapersCoverArtBenjamin Franklin observed that, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” True enough. Yet there is one other certainty, and that is change. Death is final and taxes are a miserable part of life, but in my observation, it is change that causes the most stress – often on a daily basis.

Change either paralyzes or energizes, and there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. As a writer, speaker and storyteller, I have always been fascinated by how change lifts some and crushes others. Why is it that only a few are able to grasp the shifts in their industries and shape them into the energy to create new paradigms and new ways of doing business, while others just become completely trapped; unable to go back because the old way just isn’t there any longer, yet also unable to move forward?

In my speaking engagements and in my columns and blogs I often share stories of how paradigm pioneers create new ways of doing business – or even create completely new businesses – often to great success. I have seen first-hand the almost spiritual awakening that happens to those who are paralyzed when they hear and understand those stories and begin applying them to their businesses.

The pace of change is so rapid today that I had to find a way to help tell those stories to a wider audience I needed to find a way to energize more and more people by telling stories of those who have mastered change to become their success engine. I call those folks the “Shift Shapers” and I have created “The ShiftShapers Podcast” to help spread their amazing stories.

You can get the podcast at iTunes, or on the Podcast tab of this website, where you can also find the show notes and all past episodes. We will be posting a new episode every Tuesday along show notes and links to all episodes. Some guests will be from within the life, health and benefits community, but some will be from unrelated industries. As I have studied shifts, it is amazing how similar challenges – and solutions – exist everywhere.

Take a moment to register while you are on the site, and we will notify you of upcoming webinars and exclusive content and specials that will be available only to registered “shifters”.

We can’t do anything about one of Ben’s observations, but it is past tax season so help yourself to deal with the “third inevitability” – change – by subscribing to the Shift Shapers podcast.  

c) 2013 All rights reserved. No portion of this post may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author.

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Today, I am very pleased to welcome Mark Gaunya of Borislow insurance onto the very first episode of The ShiftShapers Podcast. Mark and I are longtime friends, and his ability to bend the trend of health care and adjust to the current of his business is unparalleled
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When Mark joined Borislow Insurance nine years ago, he was really able to help them revolutionize the way that they were doing business. Mark is joining us to share some of his valuable insight on how they have been able to adjust to the changing landscape of health care over the past several years. Don’t miss it!

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • How Mark became involved with Borislow Insurance.
  • How they cultivated an atmosphere of health and wellness, and how it influenced their client relationships.
  • The structural changes that they were able to make within the organization and how that impacted the future of their business.
  • Relationships are the currency that we trade, and they can make or break our businesses.
  • How Mark and his team have adjusted to Massachusetts health care reform laws.

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Are You Shocked?
by David A. Saltzman, RHU, DIA

Pete Holmes is a very talented guy. He is an actor, a writer, and stand-up comedian who draws cartoons for The New Yorker magazine. Though you may not know his name, you know his voice. Pete is the voice of that urbane pint-size hipster known as the E*TRADE baby.

As ubiquitous as those commercials are today, the agency that created the campaign (Grey New York) wasn’t sure it would be a winner. According to Tor Myrhen, Grey’s chief creative office, they wondered if it was “the dumbest thing we’d ever done or if it was genius”. “I had just come to New York, and this was my big chance – here’s the first big Super Bowl spot for my agency – and it was a talking baby, which had been done a million times,” he said. “It was scary.”

It wasn’t scary for long, though. The day after the Giants stunned the Patriots, the company registered more new accounts than on any other day in the company’s history. The commercials are still helping to bring customers to the company and everyone seems to have their favorite.

Some like the commercial where the baby says “Apparently, riding the dog like a small horse is frowned on in this establishment”. He is being punished, but is still perusing his accounts on an iPad. When mom takes the iPad, he pulls out his smartphone with an E*TRADE app.

Other friends tell me they like the commercial where the baby is on an airplane dealing with his freaked out baby friend a few rows back in the cabin. In our house, the favorite is the spot with the baby watching a (grown up) friend trying to secure his retirement by scratching off lottery tickets. When the friend doesn’t win, the baby is unsurprised – and sarcastically says, “Let me show you my shocked face!” before sliding down in his high chair and faux freaking out.

I’ve been thinking about adopting that same “shocked face” for friends, fellow citizens and pundits who are suddenly coming to the awful realization that they have been hoodwinked by the rhetoric surrounding PPACA. Just like the E*TRADE baby who knew the lottery ticket investing approach was folly, many benefits professionals tried to warn about the implications (intended and unintended) of what was to come from the government’s take over of health care delivery and “insurance”.

The most rudimentary place to start was our admonition that insurance was not about paying claims but about transferring risk across a broad population in a predictable and actuarially sound manner. The Congressional run up to PPACA was characterized as a “health care debate” when in fact it was not, in the end, about health care nor was it a debate.

“If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan. No on will take it away. No matter what.” If we had a nickel for every time President Obama said this, we could probably make a sizeable dent in the national debt. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we now know that the statement will, in the end, be an empty promise. According to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office PPACA will erode the current employer-based system and force as many as 7 million into government-proscribed plans.

The list of PPACA broken promises is growing daily. Mrs. Pelosi was right; they did have to pass the bill so we could see what was in it. Families with incomes under $250,000 certainly don’t like what they “see”.  Anyone who thought that we could add all of these goodies for free probably still believes in the tooth fairy.  Some of the taxes are not “front line” increases, but are more insidious and corrosive. Medical device makers now have to add a 2.4% surcharge on any device costing more than $100. Who do you think is going to have to pay that additional cost?

New CBO estimates hike the estimated program costs from their original prognostication of $814 billion to $1.047 trillion over the next ten years. Interestingly, the administration that made the aforementioned promise to the country now contends that money raised from taxes, penalties and fees will offset those costs. Seriously? Re-read my recent column on the goings on in Massachusetts and see how that philosophy is working out for the Bay State.

We were told that costs would go down but the IRS now estimates that the least expensive “Bronze” plan will cost a family of four nearly $20,000 a year in 2016. That is an increase of $4,000 from the average cost a family paid last year. No one today believes that health care will be improved.

A shortage of primary care doctors combined with a glut of newly “insured” (maybe we should say “covered” – it is getting increasingly difficult to call something insurance that is not insurance?) citizens is a formula for public clinics. While that scheme works in some countries, America is not “some countries”. Americans don’t have a propensity for waiting in lines unless they come away with a new electronic device with a name beginning with a vowel.

Now, even the unions that were foursquare in favor of PPACA are getting cold feet. They are worried that the law will drive up their cost of providing health care plans and make them less competitive. They are lobbying to make some of their members eligible for federal subsidies. Remember, those subsidies were designed for employees whose employers did not provide plans so that they could buy private insurance.

Here is yet another problem, endemic to all government-funded programs: mission creep. The term, usually used to describe military operations that expand beyond their original goal, seems to be especially applicable here. For those of you who may be thinking that the subsidies are pretty well specified in PPACA and can’t really be fooled with, think again. The Obama administration, contacted for comment by the Wall Street Journal (January 30, 2013) says, “ . . . the issue is subject to regulations being written.”

Ever since state-based small group reform in the 1990’s it has been clear that while the legislatures set the table, it is the regulators who end up dictating the real-world implementation – and effects – of the laws. Regulations are where the rubber meets the road. Regulations are also the mother’s milk of mission creep.

Many labor groups are concerned that if the subsidies are not expanded, unionized employers will drop coverage. “So what?” you ask, “This is the same conversation I am having with all of my employer groups.” The salient difference is that current coverage for this population is provided as a benefit of being a member of their union. If that benefit is removed, organized labor worries that it will lose a key membership driver that will in turn have a disastrous effect on their numbers.

In the coming months there will be more instances of PPACA proponents learning that their interests may be compromised as this expansive and ever-expanding law and its thousands upon thousands of pages of regulation move forward. Those folks should surf on over to YouTube to watch the E-TRADE baby show his shocked face. Just like the baby, we tried to warn you. Watch his expression . . . it’s the same face you will see on those of us who knew these problems were an inevitable consequence of this legislation.

(c) 2013 All rights reserved. No portion of this post may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author.