Shortcuts 3Q08

     

    Welcome to the online edition of Shortcuts! 

     

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    In this issue: 

     

    Today’s Economy Calls for Low-Cost Health Plans to Keep People Covered 

    The Individual Health Agent’s Role in the Success of HSA Programs 

    Selling In Celtic Cyberspace

     


     

    Market Research Minute:

    Today’s Economy Calls for Low-Cost Health Plans to Keep People Covered

    By Dan Zeller, AVP, Product Development

     

    The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the rate of global consumer-price inflation reached an eight-year high in June 2008, mainly due to an increase in energy and food prices. Rising prices for these economically volatile items impact consumer spending: when people are spending more on food and gas, they’re spending less on things they consider "luxuries" including, for some, health insurance and medical care.

     

    For professionals in the health insurance industry, this is a scary truth.It’s also a challenge. We know how important it is to maintain medical coverage, and we understand the potential consequences of letting it lapse.

     

    "More Americans Delay Health Care," an article in the June 26, 2008 Wall Street Journal, suggests that increasing health care costs and possibly the slowing economy are causing consumers to delay or avoid medical care. The article cites a 2007 report from the Center for Studying Health System Change which found that 17% of the insured people in their study delayed or went without needed medical care at some point in the past year, up from 11% in 2003. Most said that cost was a reason.

     

    Basic benefit plans and HSA-qualified high deductible health plans are both lower-cost alternatives to more costly coverage. Individual health insurers are developing affordable major medical plans like these to attract the uninsured and keep policyholders covered. Even high deductible choices on more comprehensive plans can make premiums more affordable on plans offering richer coverage.

     

    Don’t let your clients drop their coverage or consider going uninsured. Make sure they understand how being uninsured or underinsured can ultimately cost a lot more than paying premiums. With budgets stretched as much as they are now, it’s more critical than ever that people have coverage to protect them from the financial liability created by unexpected medical costs – accidents, illnesses and other potentially catastrophic events. Plus, delaying medical treatments can result in even higher costs in the future, if and when a medical condition has worsened due to negligence or mistreatment. This, in turn, can make qualifying for coverage difficult when they want to enter the health care system.

     

    There’s nothing new about consumers wanting the most affordable individual health insurance rates, but the tight budgets of today’s economy are forcing some people to sacrifice the health coverage and care they need. That’s why it’s more important than ever they have access to economical solutions. With Celtic’s low-cost plans, you can help your clients see why being uninsured is an option they don’t need to consider.

     

    Sources: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121444668564805959.html; http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf 

     

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    To Our Valued Producers

    The Individual Health Agent’s Role in the Success of HSA Programs  

    By Jim Daly, Chief Operating Officer 

     

    More consumers are choosing Health Savings Account (HSA) Programs to meet both their health coverage and medical savings needs. Coupling HSA qualified health plans with a tax-advantaged savings account, HSA Programs give consumers a way to purchase an affordable health policy, save money for current and future medical expenses, and take more control over how their health needs are being met and financed.

     

    A Timely Opportunity for Individual Health Agents

    America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) annual census of the HSA plan market revealed 6.1 million people were covered by HSA-qualified high deductible health plans (HDHPs) in January 2008. This includes 1.5 million people in the individual market, up from approximately 1.1 million in January 2007 – an impressive 36% increase. Furthermore, the census showed individual market consumers selected HSA-qualified HDHPs for 27% of their new purchases of health insurance. Clearly, the concept is catching on, and it presents an incredible opportunity for individual health insurance agents.

     

    Despite market growth and increasing consumer awareness, however, not all agents are selling HSA Programs because they’re not comfortable answering the tax and investment questions involving the savings account. But selling an HSA Program isn’t as difficult or complicated as many agents fear. You don’t need to be a financial advisor or accountant to get your clients started on an HSA Program. Simply sell the health insurance portion of an HSA Program and know where to refer your clients to collect their savings account know-how. Learn the basics and you’re on your way.

     

    1. Learn the Basics

    The first step of the sales process is to get comfortable with how HSA Programs work and why they might be a great solution to your clients’ needs. There are numerous resources on the Internet you can peruse, including the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service websites. Celtic’s website offers an HSA Resource Center with health savings account information  complete with educational sales presentations and frequently asked questions. You can also talk to your Celtic District Sales Manager for personal sales tips and advice. Keep in mind that as a health agent, you’re responsible for understanding the nuts-and-bolts of the health plan portion of the program, not the underlying tax law or investment details.

     

    2. Your Specialty: Sell the Health Plan

    Second, sell your client an HSA-eligible HDHP. The health plan covers a wide range of medical costs after the deductible is met and provides a safety net against the “big bills” that often come with unexpected medical costs. Your clients pay the “small bills” out-of-pocket, from their HSA if they choose. They can also use their HSA funds to pay for qualified medical expenses that are not covered by their underlying health plan, such as maternity, vision, and over-the-counter drugs. Some plans, like the enhanced CelticSaver HSA, offer first-dollar preventive care coverage so policyholders can utilize their plan before they spend any money towards their deductible.

     

    3. Encourage an HSA

    To realize the savings and tax advantages of an HSA Program, your clients need to start contributing to an HSA. This is where you can help them make the most of their health care dollars without having to get too involved in financial decision-making. It’s as easy as encouraging your clients to open a Health Savings Account upon approval of their health plan.

     

    Your compelling sales points are that contributions are tax-deductible, earnings accrue tax-free, and funds can be withdrawn at any time without penalty to pay for qualified medical expenses. Money in the HSA rolls-over from year to year, so your clients can build their savings to pay for medical costs for times when they may not be able to contribute to their account.

     

    HSA Programs offer a new way for your clients to think about, save for and pay for healthcare costs. Selling these plans may require greater education than traditional plans, but consider them your opportunity to educate them on making the most of their healthcare dollars – something they’ll thank you for.

     

    Your clients depend on your expertise to help them meet their health insurance needs. But if you don’t double as their financial advisor or accountant, you’re not necessarily involved in the financial management side of their portfolio—and that’s OK. Don’t let this stop you from selling today’s popular Health Savings Account (HSA) Programs. While HSA Programs involve both an insurance plan and a savings account, it’s easy for you to sell the health coverage – and even easier for you to leave the savings account and tax questions to the experts.

     

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     Selling In Celtic Cyberspace 

     

    Need to Register for Your Celtic Agent Portal Account?

    To quote and apply online for Celtic’s individual health care plans, you need to be appointed with Celtic and register for a Celtic Agent Portal account. The main page of your Agent Portal contains a personalized Agent WebLink home page URL you and your clients will use to quote and apply online. If you do not have an Agent Portal account, register to sell Celtic's health insurance online.

     

    Tips to avoid delays in processing your Celtic Agent Portal registration:

    - Check your appointment status with your District Sales Manager before registering online. Make sure your appointment requirements are up-to-date.

    - When setting up your Agent Portal, input your first and last name exactly as it appears on your insurance license.

    - Enter your assigned Celtic Agent ID number, which is usually your Social Security number.

     

    Call your District Sales Manager at (800) 477-7990 with questions or for help using your Agent Portal and Agent WebLink home page URL.

     

     

     

    Introducing Celtic Agent Portal and Celtic Agent WebLink Online Tutorials!

    An easy way to learn how to use your Celtic e-commerce solution! Visit www.celtic-net.com/RegisterNow.aspx to access online tutorials created especially to help you use your Celtic Agent WebLink and the tools in your Celtic Agent Portal. You can view colorful, dynamic presentations – complete with audio – that give you step-by-step instructions on:

     

    - Submitting business online

    - Sending Quote XP proposals to your clients

    - Creating banner and text links for your Celtic Agent WebLink URL

    - ...and more!

     

    Each presentation is brief and easy-to-follow. They’re a great way to get up to speed with the resources at your fingertips.

     

    Download Your Celtic Agent Portal & WebLink Guide Book from www.celtic-net.com/RegisterNow.aspx or call your District Sales Manager at (800) 477-7990 for more information about using Celtic’s e-commerce solution – and building your business online!

     

     

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