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Group Health Insurance May Be Best for Your Business … Even If You’re an Individual

Even if you’re an individual, group health insurance may be best for your business.

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RECENTLY, I HEARD A business owner tell a frustrating story about how she was forced to spend a surprisingly large sum for the treatment of a health condition. She was angry because her individual health insurance plan, bought through the Marketplace in 2014, had just increased in premium for the fourth time. She expected more from her insurance!

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There has been a growing rift between group and individual insurance since 2015 — most owners have not been able to keep up with all of the details. I have heard, erroneously, from many business owners that they believe:

  • They couldn’t do group insurance.
  • They would have to pay for all of their employees.
  • Individual insurance would be cheaper.

Not true.

Individual insurance contracts (aka Obamacare plans) are no longer the same as group plans. Differences include deductibles, max out-of-pocket financial exposures, and pricing. In most cases, individual insurance is less advantageous for the consumer.

Many small business owners are not aware of the increased availability of group insurance.

In 2014, the Affordable Care Act changed many of the regulations affecting small businesses and insurance. States have also been tweaking rules applicable to groups employing between two and 50 people (small groups). It is very possible that a small business would be better off with group insurance — and the employees as well.

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Here is the basic situation: In most states businesses with two or more people are eligible to purchase group insurance. Why is this important?

Because, in many states, group insurance may be less expensive per person, have lower financial exposures and have access to larger PPO networks.

How does it work? There is a little-known aspect of the Affordable Care Act that makes group insurance very accessible for small businesses. If you have an inception/renewal date of Jan. 1, then the business is not required to contribute to the employees’ premiums. Further, there are no participation requirements (i.e. how many people must participate of the employed population), so the business owner could be the only one participating — a “group” of one. Some states do not allow groups of one. In these states, you must have two participants. And note that husband-wife groups are treated differently and may not be eligible.

If the group insurance plan renews on any other date of the year, then the group is subject to contribution and participation requirements. These requirements are set by the insurance companies and are typically less stringent than most business owners believe.

Typical participation requirement: 70 percent of eligible full-time staff after qualified waivers. A qualified waiver is someone who has an insurance plan from a spouse, the government or an individual plan. Let’s say we have a group of 10 full time employees, four of whom have coverage through their spouse and one who is on Medicare. Here is how we determine the participation requirement: 10 eligible – 5 qualified waivers = 5 employees. In this case, to attain 70 percent participation, only four people must participate!

In regard to employer cost for groups that do not start/renew on Jan. 1, requirements may not be as high you think. In most cases, the employer is asked to contribute 25 percent of the cost of individual coverage on the lowest cost plan.

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Here’s how this plays out in the real world: Most small businesses offer two or three plans for the employees to choose from, one of which will be the “lowest cost.” The employer then calculates 25 percent of what it costs for that single person and the employee is responsible for the remaining premium. How much money are we talking about? Typically an employer is asked to contribute $75 to $225 per month per person depending on the age of the employee — only for those who choose to contribute.

Marcus Newman is Vice President — Small Business Sales with GCG, a full-service financial, employee benefits and risk management firm. A regular public speaker and educator, he can be contacted at marcus.newman@gcgfinancial.com

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Editor's Note

Such is Life, It Slows Down for No One

Luckily we provide a few hacks to make managing your business a little easier. We can all use all the help we can get.

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DOES ANYONE ELSE feel like they were woefully unprepared for this year? We’re three months in and I still don’t feel like I’ve caught up.

The new year comes around the same time every year … We know it’s on its way … It never just jumps out of nowhere to surprise us and yet, everyone seems to be scrambling to get where they should be by this time of year.

It makes me wonder if we’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification — Amazon Prime Now, news as it happens, binging an entire season of a show in one sitting, gel manicures — that planning for things in the not-so-distant future has taken a hit.

If you’re looking for some shortcuts to get back up to speed and even ahead of the game, check out our VEE Buying Guide starting on page 40. We’ve cut through all the noise for the most exciting products you should be seeking out. Our usual product features, starting on page 19, are pretty spectacular too. All in all, there are nearly 100 products in this issue for you to digest. No need to frantically lap the show floor trying to ferret it all out. We’ve taken the work out of it for you.

It’s a good thing too, because there is nothing like business travel to throw a wrench in your routine. I’ve done a lot of travel in the first couple months of the year and while I love all the time I’ve gotten to spend with many of you on the road, it has definitely been a blow to my self care. Dr. Danielle Richardson to the rescue with her most recent column (page 74), with tips to tend to your wellness while traveling to Expo, or anywhere really.

As much as we all sometimes would like life to just slow down a little so we can catch our breath, that isn’t an option. Hopefully, this issue of INVISION (and every issue for that matter) provides you a few hacks to make managing your business a little easier. Lord knows, we can all use all the help we can get.

Best wishes for your business,

Dee Carroll

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

dee@invisionmag.com

Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Demonstrating lens options can be difficult; luckily there are a slew of new apps to help. (Better Vision, page 34)
2. You and your staff should be in pictures. We’ve got some tips on how to make that happen. (Monthly Project, page 20)
3. Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold and you could be cashing in. (Special Feature, page 56)
4. The inexpensive way to build product excitement right as customers walk in the door. (Tip Sheet, page 66)
5. Amazon Eyewear? Could happen… Prepare youself. (Columns, page 72)

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Robert Bell

Don’t Just Ask Questions, Actually Listen to the Answers

Sounds simple, but many don’t do it when trying to sell eyewear.

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A LONG TIME AGO, I overheard a conversation between two people:

Person 1: “Ugh, I just wish there was a magic potion you could drink to lose weight!”

Person 2: “There is. It’s called water.”

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Makes me laugh, every time, because of its sheer simplicity. Anytime I put myself on a weight loss plan, drinking lots of water a day is on the regimen. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The not so simple part is actually doing it. To drink all that water per day (… hold on, I gotta go refill my water bottle…) isn’t easy. It is, however, very doable.

Well, it’s the same thing with selling.

There isn’t a magic potion for selling (trust me, I’ve drunk a lot of red wine just to be sure) but there is a magic wand. Know what it is? Listening. I mean really listening! The best salespeople I ever meet, in any industry, are always, hands-down, the best listeners. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. The hard part is doing it. I’ll share with you how to make that easier.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from one of my first clients, Dr. Robert Ratzlaff of RealEyes in Taos, NM. About a month after his EyeCoach training, he told me I had made him a better doctor. Hmm, strange I thought. I’m not a doctor nor did I attend optometry school.

“Doctor, how the hell did I do that?”

“By making me a better listener.”

“Ah, and how did I make you a better listener?”

“By teaching me to ask better questions. It forces me to listen to the answers.”

It forces me to listen to the answers.

If you’ve read my sales columns before, you know I’m all about the questions. The more questions, the better. The questions I ask have a “share with me” or a “tell me” element to them. Meaning, with each question I ask, I could have “Tell me” or “Share with me” as a preface. It implies we’re on the same team. It says, “Look, I’m not trying to persuade you, I’m trying to find out exactly how I can help you.”

“Tell me… when you’re reviewing your children’s homework, do you notice you’re moving the paper further away to read it?”

“Share with me… what’s happening with your eyes and vision when you’re at your daughter’s soccer games in the late afternoon? Just how harsh is that sun?”

“Tell me… how often is the baby grabbing the glasses off your face?”

“Share with me… how often are you rubbing your eyes and exactly what part of the day do you start to feel most fatigued?”

Wait for the answers. Don’t interrupt them, ever! When they’re done responding, ask another question until you have all the information you require to help them purchase all the eyewear they need.

I tend to nod my head up and down while they’re responding. Why? For me, it actually feels good and reminds me that I’m an active participant in this conversation. For them, it shows them I’m being an active listener and I care about what they’re talking about.

Listening. What a concept!

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Columns

A Few Simple Words Can Bring Tons of New Patients Through Your Door

A good CTA will keep your office phone ringing, fill up your appointment calendar and turn your website visitors into new patients.

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HERE’S A RIDDLE for you: What can be as simple as two words but is the key to bringing new patients through your door?

The answer: a call to action or CTA.

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A good CTA will keep your office phone ringing, fill up your appointment calendar and turn your website visitors into new patients. So what exactly is this magic little phrase, and what makes a good one?

What is a CTA?

A CTA is phrase that instructs or encourages a user to take a specific action, such as booking an appointment, signing up to a mailing list, calling the office, filling in a form or getting more information about a promotion. It can (and should) be used in basically any form of marketing, such as your website, a landing page, a Facebook promotion, an email or even a radio ad.

Each element of your marketing is designed for one ultimate purpose — to bring in appointments and optical sales. If you fail to include a CTA, you risk losing potential patients who may delay or not otherwise take the next step toward that goal. Making the call to your office or action easy and quick reduces lag time and dropoff rates.

What makes a good CTA?

A good call to action makes it clear what action you want visitors to take and gives them the tools they need to do so. The best CTAs address the what, when and why of taking the next step and usually have the following traits:

  • What: They use action verbs to direct conversion such as, “Call our office, Fill-out an appointment form, Book an appointment, Contact us, Visit our office etc…” The best CTAs are those that include the words that would follow the phrase, “I would like to …”
  • When: They use time-sensitive wording such as, “Today, Now, Don’t Delay etc.”
  • Why: They are often benefits-oriented, answering the question of why one should take the action. “Take care of your precious eyesight, Save time and money, etc.”
  • They stand out on the page using bright colors and bold text. They are clear and easy to spot, and they are most effective when placed in the header and/or at least above the fold. They should also show up prominently on both desktop and mobile devices. And in case you’re wondering, we’ve seen that circle buttons stand out more and work better than rectangles.
  • They are easy to use. Nowadays clickable buttons, especially on mobile-friendly sites, are the way to go. If your visitor can click a CTA button on your site and schedule an appointment or call your office directly, you’ve eliminated almost every obstacle. What could be easier? Our marketing experts recommend a CTA attached to an embedded online scheduler when possible, allowing patients to instantly see your availability and book an appointment.

Now here’s one catch: There is such a thing as too many CTAs on a page. You don’t want to overdo it. Top, bottom and once in the middle is “enough.” In that case, the CTAs are easily accessible get the job done. Anything more starts to turn off the visitor.

So the next time you are working on your website or scheduling a new promotion, stop and think about your CTAs. They are probably the most important part of your marketing or campaign strategy.

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