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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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Know Your Niche

Otherwise you may end up compromising.

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Know your niche as a retailer and stay true to that niche. Don’t try to meet everyone’s needs – if you try you will compromise somewhere else. – Carter Johnston, OD, Physicians Optical Luxury Eyewear, Oklahoma City, OK

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The Best Call to Actions to Convert Visitors to Patients

CTAs are probably the most important part of your marketing or campaign strategy.

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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 in your door? The answer is: a CTA or call to action.

A good CTA will keep your 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, or getting more information about a promotion. It can (and should) be used in basically any form of marketing from your website, to a landing page, to a Facebook promotion, email or even a radio ad.

Each element of your marketing is designed for one ultimate purpose — to bring in appointments and optical sales — and 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 drop off rates.

So, what makes a good CTA? A good call to action makes it very 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 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, 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? We recommend a CTA attached to an embedded online scheduler when possible that allows patients to instantly see your availability and book an appointment.

Now there’s one catch… there is such a thing as too many CTAs on a page. You don’t want to overdo it. Think top, bottom, and once in the middle is ‘enough’, they’re easily accessible and they get the job done.
The next time you’re working on your website or scheduling a promotion, stop and think about your CTAs. They are probably the most important part of your marketing or campaign strategy.

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Danielle Richardson

Feel Like Your Wellness Routine Could Be Missing Something? It’s Probably Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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WHEN YOU THINK OF your health and wellness, how often do you think of sleep? Chances are not often — but you should. Sleep is the newest frontier in wellness as public health consciousness continues to increase and we move to a more holistic idea of health. We spend nearly 1/3 of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The National Sleep Foundation defines quality sleep as occurring when you’re asleep within 30 minutes of laying down, wake no more than once, and sleep for at least 85 percent of the night. Unfortunately, quality sleep is an uncommon occurrence as the CDC reports a third of American adults experience poor or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems or disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. As a country, we need to get some rest!

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and triples the risk for type 2 diabetes according to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick Finan, PhD. Those not getting adequate sleep suffer from a weakened immune system, irregular metabolism, and obesity secondary to increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Not limited to just the physical body, sleep deprivation can also manifest as cognitive impairment and/or mental health changes including depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog. Poor quality sleep is far less recuperative, which causes us to not feel rested when do we wake up.

Sleep depends on a number of factors, our body’s internal regulating system is chief among them. Our Circadian Rhythm functions as the body’s biological clock and regulates the experience of alertness vs. sleepiness. This rhythm is sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol peaks in the morning allowing us to be alert and focused throughout the day. The secretion of melatonin — which helps us sleep — is highest at night.

These days, our minds are moving a mile a minute and we’re constantly on light-producing digital devices even though increased high-energy blue light exposure from devices decreases melatonin production and causes insomnia or sleeplessness. The disrupting culprits aren’t limited to devices though; increased stress, irregular work schedules, frequent jet lag, and sleep disorders can also disrupt our cycles.

The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of quality sleep for adults and more for teens and children. Here are some easy ways you can get better sleep tonight:

Build Consistency. It’s important to wake and head to bed around the same time each day — even on the weekends.

Use Sleep Monitoring Technology. Smartphones and wearable tech devices can help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep through downloadable applications and Bluetooth technology.

Sleep Habits. Limit screen time and diminish light sources in the bedroom. Additionally, use the automatic setting on your phone to warm the screen at night.

Bonus — Zen Out! Use essential oils or pillow sprays in scents like lavender as aromatherapy to help you sleep. Also consider meditation, light music, or other soothing sounds as a relaxing way to send yourself to bed.

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