Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Modify or Repeal...What's the Best Road?

In this time of uncertainty over health care reform, we have seen some substantial changes. No one really knew what to expect as lawmakers themselves admitted that they wouldn't be able to tell the full impact until the law was in place and rolling right along. 
Within the landscape of all of this, we see many people being helped by the new laws. These are the people who needed health insurance. The aged and the chronically ill were no longer being told "no" and they are now getting the proper care they need to either get better or at least deal better with the issues they face. Children are now getting the care they need within the plans being offered. Children being able to have their teeth taken care of and/or get their eyes checked regularly. (There is nothing in place to help the obesity problem in our country, but that's for another blog).
Since the law went into effect, we see so many people seeing the flaws in the process. Everything from out of sight premiums to their primary care physician no longer in the mysterious "network" within the public exchange plans being offered. When flaws show their ugly heads, everyone has a way to "fix it". Many in Washington, DC are still fighting for repeal of the whole thing. They are still saying, "It's not too late". Other are saying it's fine but that some things should change and adjust to make it better. Who is on the right track? What will make this process best for everyone? Well, let's look at both sides and then you can decide.

REPEAL IT! Those who shout "repeal" are wanting to scrap the whole thing and make it their own. I can think of millions who signed up because they needed proper care for health concerns and before the law came into effect, their pre-existing condition kept them from that. Sure, they could get seen and treated if it was a severe accident/emergency, but we're talking about an illness that could slowly kill them over time without treatment. What would a repeal do for those people? I'd like to think I look at everyone when it comes to making sweeping decisions. I'm certain that one of the reasons the ACA came into effect is for these people and it is helping them. I don't want to think that those people would be negatively impacted by a full on repeal of the law. A full repeal would effect others as well, but that's what we have to consider (in my opinion) when we talk about scrapping a plan and starting over. However, you want to start a repeal process? SOAP BOX...Stop calling it "Obamacare". That's not what it is. It's PPACA, which is short for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

FIX IT! Have you ever had a car start "acting funny" on you? You're not sure what's wrong but you know something is. So, you take it to the mechanic and they run some tests and diagnostics to see if they can pinpoint the issue and fix it. The ACA "fix" option is kind of like that car. It has so many working parts and I'm sure we all have our particular thing we'd like to see adjusted. Fixing it could be the better option (SOAP BOX...let's PLEASE stop calling it "Obamacare". That's not what it is. As far as "fixing it" goes, let's start there. OFF SOAP BOX). The shell itself is in place. We've got the framework for something special that could be amazing for millions and now we need to find ways to make this as painless as possible. The biggest issues you hear are certain doctors not being in the network of the public exchanges, premiums are too high, medications are not part of the plans, and the fines and fees associated with being required to have health insurance that meets the guidelines set out by the government. Do I have answers to all these things? No. Are there people out there who could put some great ideas on the table to consider what options there are in fixing some of these things? Yes. Maybe even you and me.

At the end of the day I see a "fix" mentality being a better idea for everyone. So many people, including myself, have had to adjust how they do things because of the requirements of the law. Business owners, individuals, insurance carriers, and even the government entities like the Department of Labor and the IRS. I'd like to believe that in the end we all would like something we can be proud of and know that it is helping people in the right way fro them without being a burden on those who may not need it or are fine with just having "the basics" met for them.

The key for you is to be sure you have people around you and that you can contact to help you as things change (and they will change). You will need to be informed and keeping up on your own may not be in your job description. That's where people like myself come in. I stay informed so that when you have a question about your health plan situation, I can be there to help and guide. I don't want to see anyone struggle with this process. That's why with my colleagues and self-study on what's going on with this every day I know we can (at least) keep people aware and informed and be there when others need us.

If you need some options and answers now, I am a phone call/text away (205-370-8453) or you can email me at gene@generamsay.com.

Top image comes from here.
PPACA image comes from here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Am I Really That Scary?

Well, not me per say, but what I do.

Since taking on a leadership and recruiting/training role with my main insurance carrier I do business with, I have scheduled interview after interview. I've talked and emailed with countless people and the percentage of people that actually step up to be a part of an amazing industry and process is very small.

Now, in hindsight, I don't really want every person I talk with to join my team. There needs to be a desire to do things for others and there should be a connection with me and the business integrity I attempt to implement in my business. Many people don't hold that same value and I'm glad I see that early on and we are able to part ways on good terms. However, the people that seem solid and ready to go and who say, "This sounds amazing" and then they disappear? What's up?

So, for all the people out there looking to do something for yourself, make the kind of living you'd like to based on the effort you are willing to put forth all while helping people protect themselves and their families...here's where I put the cards on the table and let you see three great things and three challenges to what I do every single day. I've been doing this over 5 years and still wake up each morning hoping to make a positive difference in people's lives. Whether it be with some much needed insurance benefits, helping a company owner make some tough decisions, or  I'm interacting with a person looking to join me in these endeavors and make a living for themselves they can call their own. Here's what it's all about and it's all about what angle you're looking at it all from:


1 - You earn what you make. An early question I get asked is, "What can I make?" or "What does it pay?". I get that. I was that way when I started down this road. What I am offering is a commission only job. Those words scared me and I'm sure they can scare anyone looking to make money who have never looked in this direction. However, I jumped into this business on faith and I wake up every day doing the same. I know that if I don't make positive moves toward reaching out to other potential clients, servicing existing clients, and planning my own day as carefully as I can that I run the risk of making nothing at all in a given week.

2 - You will meet new people every day. Whether it's by phone or email or walking in a door, you will be meeting new people every day and you will be talking to them about things they can do to protect themselves and their family. You will be offering solutions, options, and answers to people who may or may not be interested in what you have to say or offer. Those new people say "No" and "Not today" and "Call me back later" all the time. It's the part of the game that can be frustrating. Sometimes just the thought of having to be confident in front of a stranger can be intimidating.

3 - It's got your name on it. So many times a person goes to work for a company. Things are all about "company policy" and what others are telling you to do. That's not the case in this business. You are your own boss. You are your business and  brand. You mess up, it's got your name all over it and that frightens people. I understand that. There will be days that you will soar and other days you can't do anything right and you want everyone you know to forget your phone number and email address. You will become what you make yourself to be and no one will just pay you for "trying".


1 - You earn what you make. With all the challenges in this business, when you get a "Yes" from a potential client and you start that process of changing lives and advising and becoming something to those people you are helping, it means the world. Guess what...you also get paid to do that. How much depends on the job you do and the team you surround yourself with, but some days you'll think about it and think, "Wow, I just made $100.00 an hour" (for example). Take that with the good feelings of helping others do right by themselves and family and you get something you can't make up. The key to succeeding in this business is believing enough in what you do and offer that each day is a new opportunity to change lives...including your own, for the better.

2 - You will meet new people every day. People and connections is what makes this world and being human so amazing. Even people looking at the 4 walls of a cubicle have interactions with others and it's sometimes the high point of their day. The best news is you are hunting constantly for new people to meet with, talk to, and help each and every day you choose to. Now, as with any single person they have a right to like what you have to say and they have a right not to. It's the way the world works. Getting more "No" than "Yes" can start to hurt if you let it. The good news is, you can rest on the fact that what you do has effected millions in a positive way each day and you get the opportunity to do that. Without people, no one gets anywhere. Think about this...even the person in the cubicle needs people to make a living. No one gets anywhere or makes a dime without someone else. It's just not possible any other way.

3 - It's got your name on it. When people join my team, the first weeks are all about learning and growing and understanding the business and the product. It's about getting comfortable with sales calls and visits and finding a groove that suits them. Once they are ready to head out on their own, it's all them. Sure, I'm still a part of the process but I'm in a support role and leadership position to help when things get tough or when assistance is needed. Anyone who joins my team works WITH me...not FOR me. Big difference and it's a good thing. I want people to build something for themselves no matter what direction my life takes. The good news is, in this industry you can make it whatever you want or need it to be.

So, who is ready? Who has what it takes to stop living for a paycheck and work to make a living equal to the work you are willing to put in? Are you a good candidate to contact me? One phone call and one interview will tell you. The next step is yours...and the next...and the next. Each day, one more step and one more opportunity to serve others and make a positive difference in people's lives.

Not working right now? Looking for a "job"? Contact me at 205-370-8453 (text or call) or email me (gene@generamsay.com) and let's talk.

It's only scary if your perspective is wrong.

Please don't be afraid to fail. Join with me and make a difference in the lives of others, and your life too:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Health Care Reform Making You Feel Handcuffed?

The Affordable Care Act has been in place since October 1, 2013. When it was first opened up the majority of people were still rather clueless as to what it meant and what they needed to do. Even heading into the new year there were some who still didn't know there would be a tax penalty for not having some sort of ACA compliant health insurance. Health care reform is confusing to many, irritating to others, and many are still walking around uninsured as before because they just don't know where to turn. Business owners and the people in charge of benefits are much the same way. I will be directing my statements to them in the remainder of this piece, but understand that as of today, not only must decisions be made but options must be made available. I hope to do some of that here.

Many business owners around where I live feel trapped. In Alabama, we are essentially a one carrier state and all options seem to lead to that particular carrier. A couple have tried to get in and make some waves, but on a very limited basis, when it comes to the public exchange set up here. Many business owners feel handcuffed to the only option they are aware of. I'm here to tell all of them, that there are options.

Before I get into the top 3 options I have seen and helped to implement, I have to say to anyone reading this who feels like they only have the one option...stop thinking that way. Forget the one carrier for a second. Forget what you've always known and maybe even grown up with and expand your mind to options that can help you and your business keep solid benefits in place and keep them affordable. Be open to the possibilities.

Now, on to my top 3 options:

1 - Get high. 
We do it with much of the insurance we select. Car, home, etc. We pick the plan that allows us to pay the smallest premium now and do our best to avoid the risk and thereby save us money in the long run. In the past, deductibles of $500 - $1500 have been the norm. In this option, deductibles can get up there to the $5000 - $10,000 variety.
Now, that amount may sound scary but I want you to consider something here. Look at the last visit to the hospital you had. Most likely it wasn't yesterday and you do all you can to stay healthy and out of the hospital like i know I do. Now, people with conditions that need constant monitoring and/or treatment may see something different but I'm working off of the general population. Now, if you will take that potential deductible and look at a situation where a good bit of medical treatment may be necessary (emergency, sever illness, etc.) the total amount would put many people into bankruptcy. While the deductible may look huge, when you need the insurance it is there to cover past that amount. Many times a payment plan is set up with insureds to get the bill paid but at the end of the day what you want is to feel better and be back on your feet and contrary to popular belief, your doctor wants you back on your feet as well because his health (not your wallet) should be his or her number one priority. So, that said, looking at the highest deductible plan for you and your people may be a solid option. In addition to that there are additional policies that those individuals you see as needing a little more "cushion" could acquire to cover the larger expense items like hospitalization or surgical procedures. Those policies are usually quite affordable and if you save a good bit with getting a higher deductible plan the investment to cover these "what ifs" could be huge to your people.

2 - Think outside the card. Another options that have surfaced are not really new. Things like HSAs and HRAs have been around for some time. Many people in this are of the country don't look at because it takes some thinking and an open mind to wrap your noggin around the concept of setting money aside for a rainy day medical situation.
It makes sense and the options can be quite flexible based on the staff of people being covered. I'm not going to dig down deep into these here, but the options are endless here. You can customize a plan that starts dollar one coverage and then the insured picks up some and the plan kicks back in or the company can set up a fund and pay out expenses at the time of need. It's really a nice option to have, gives the company some solid benefits for the everyday use and also helps the people who have the "what if" happen to them.

3 - Throw everyone to the sharks. OK, that sounds more harsh than it is really, but many companies have no choice (or feel they don't). It's either keep benefits or start firing people. This option tells your people that you are not involving yourself or your company in health insurance options and that it's up to them to go and get it on their own. It saves the company time, money, and administrative stuff that goes along with having health insurance.
It's not the nicest option, but it is one I'm seeing owners take. It's also not all bad and a company owner can still provide things to their employees that they can use to help them as they go it alone. For instance, a company can have a broker or ACA trained agent come into his place of business and help his people make the choices they need to. The company can offer up a flat amount that they would be willing to pay so each employee has some company funds to help pay premiums with. The company can also offer to fund other benefits like life insurance, disability, or other products where if the "what if" happens then the people are covered. To be fair to owners making this bold move it's not all bad. The business owner wants to be in business doing what they are passionate about. They have taken the time and resources to hire quality people and pay them a good wage. If all the company does is that they've done a good thing. So many people expect health benefits to be part of the deal when in reality it doesn't have to be. In fact, I've even been in training classes where we were taught to tell a company owner that if they'll offer a certain benefit it will increase the loyalty and production of an employee. I've talked to many employees recently and to be honest...they just want to get paid. I think in 7 years I may have talked to 3 people total who said they changed jobs for better benefits. I'm not saying it's a good option, but I have to be fair to the decision. I will, however, say that I encourage all owners to at least OFFER opportunity through your company for your folks to acquire benefits whether you pay a dime for it or not. Having the knowledge that you care enough to let a vendor or benefits professional advisor says to your people that you care enough about them to help them make the call for themselves.

I hope this insight has been helpful. Everything has changed and is still changing as of today. Nothing in the benefits market is staying still and I'm doing my best to stay on top of it all. If you need some guidance as an individual or as a company, that's what I do. The good news is that all this reform has not stopped new companies from opening their doors. I'm meeting with a brand new company President this week and I'm excited about what we can build for them and their people from the ground up.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's Never Too Late! Or Is it?

How many times have we heard the phrase, "It's never too late." We hear it used when people say things like, "I wish I had...", "I'd like to do...", "If only I'd...". Then we say "It's never too late". In areas like this that very well may be the case. Life is to be lived and in many cases you can do those things you've always wanted to do any time in your life. However, there may be areas where we miss the mark and the opportunity comes and then it's gone and it can be too late. I find this to be the case when we talk about decisions made about insurance and benefits people have access to. We see this to be especially true when it comes to disability and life insurance. I'll explain.

With life insurance, this concept is obvious. We only have so many days on this earth. Many of us have the desire to live life to the fullest. That's great until something happens and life ends up being much shorter than we had planned. In our lives, most of us have OTHERS to think about if something happens to us. Sure, you can approach it like, "Hey, I'm dead...what do I care." but if we stop and think for two seconds we realize that the people in our lives matter more to us than that and we need to make some provisions if our "carpe diem" mentality backfires. Death is inevitable no matter the age, health, or life situations. Being prepared with some basic life insurance will help those around you sleep a little better.
Another area is how life can throw us an illness or something that might keep us from being able to get life insurance. I have never seen people more upset and dejected when I get into an application for life insurance and I see that they have some health conditions which will either raise their premiums or cause them to be unable to gain life insurance by normal means. Younger people fall into the trap of feeling that disease and health issues will happen later so they decide to wait. Then one day they wake up with Type 2 Diabetes or they have a heart attack. Suddenly they feel like they have a chink in their invincibility armor and the "what if" question comes up. So, they run out and try to feel better by getting a life policy only to find that their recent situation makes the insurance company say, "Um...I don't think so."
In either of these cases there are always secondary options. With my main advisor capacity using voluntary life insurance through an employer I can usually make someone's day who has had trouble in the past with acquiring life insurance. I've even been able to get someone in cancer treatments get life coverage through work so I know it's possible. If I can't through those means, I have access to other carriers and professionals who offer higher risk policies. Sure, the premiums are higher but that's one of the prices of waiting.

Disability is another tough one but easier to understand. Many times someone is offered disability insurance to cover their paycheck and they pass because they've worked for years and never been out more than a day or two for anything. It's also true that people are more likely to die than suffer a long disability. This is where I will address the ladies. In pregnancy, you're out AT LEAST 6 weeks. Your FMLA keeps your job but doesn't pay you a dime and you have to have been at that job for at least a year before you are eligible to get FMLA. Disability coverage lets you enjoy your time with your little one and have the knowledge of knowing that you will at least get a paycheck or two while you are out. Unfortunately, I get too many calls in a year from clients asking to get on disability insurance who just got back to work from a disabling event or some young lady who found out 3 weeks ago she was pregnant and needs coverage. At that point my hands are tied and it is too late. I have to explain that they can still get the coverage, but that the policy will not help them in the pregnancy or for that condition they just dealt with on this go around.

Waiting is tough for the person, but it's tough on me too. I don't like telling people I can't help them. It's like I'm Superman and I'm trying to save someone from falling to the ground but they lined their pockets with kryptonite. I can try but in the end there is little I can do and that pains me.

So, how do handle these dilemmas? It's simple. When you get offers through work or personal means to help you plan for the future, think twice. Think about others who are counting on you. Think about how it will feel to have to ask to borrow money to get by or have to take out a loan. With benefits, you pay a small price today that could save you and/or your family a lot of heartache and pocket ache.

Do you have people you know who need to hear this? Do you want to help those who aren't helping themselves because they don't know where to go. With us being at the beginning of a new year, it may be time to start adopting the approach of helping others not miss an opportunity to help themselves. Contact me and let's see about setting up an advisory session where I can help you remind people of these valuable things. At least then we can say we tried. I find that imparting education and knowledge in these areas is key and even if they still say "No", they have done so in full light of the facts and possibilities.

Spend the next 16 minutes smiling with Steve Mazan as he reminds us that in some areas it's never too late: