According to both Johns Hopkins University and The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), more than 40 percent of the American population report using alternative medicine therapies outside of conventional medicine, and for pain control when prescribed medications prove to be ineffective.
If you’ve ever stretched out on a yoga mat or taken a probiotic, you may be part of this growing segment.
Alternative medicine may include interventions such as herbal remedies, reflexology, chiropractic, nutritional supplements, massage therapy and acupuncture.
Do the professionals buy into the results?
More medical professionals are beginning to suggest the use of alternative therapies in combination with conventional medical treatments, studies are underway to examine the usefulness and safety of these nonstandard treatments.
So, what is complementary medicine all about?
Alternative and complementary medicine, sometimes referred to as CAM, is an umbrella term for a vast array of treatments that fall outside conventional approaches. The two terms actually refer to different concepts:
Alternative medicine is not included in the traditional curricula taught in medical schools, whereas complementary healthcare refers to alternative treatments used in conjunction with mainstream treatment.
For example, alternative medicine might differ from complementary medicine in that alternative therapy might use a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation or chemo that was recommended by a physician; and complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery.
Should I be concerned about the cost?
Alternative medicine therapies can be less expensive than conventional medical treatments.
Even though some alternative therapies might be expensive, many herbal remedies and other natural treatments still cost less than prescription medications and treatments. Acupuncture and chiropractic sessions can cost significantly less than conventional pain therapy treatments.
Combined complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) might offer some of the following
What’s my “call to action”?
There could be situations where conventional doctors might simply diagnose – nothing more. Then it’s up to the patient to find a doctor who can do more.
It is, in theory, easy to measure results. A patient is diagnosed with an illness. A doctor tries to treat the illness and it persists or it is defeated. But when an ‘alternative practitioner’ defeats an illness it is seldom recorded, it simply becomes ‘anecdotal evidence’.
With so many adults using some form of alternative medicine, benefit programs can be of great value when offering its members 10% to 30% savings on health and wellness needs with over 40 specialties and 43,000 practitioners nationwide.
Whether you need to reduce stress, relieve migraines, quit smoking, or a more serious issue, alternative and complementary medicine can help.
Life as a contract worker has its attractions, like independence and more control over work/life, but it also carries risks. Individuals and independent contractors have no Benefits Department. They are left to sort through dozens of websites and lists of plans, all while trying to get to the key information: is my doctor on this plan? What’s the cost? What, exactly is covered? What’s the tradeoff if I choose a high deductible? Not to mention, high premium costs.
It’s true most people do obtain health insurance coverage through their employer, but you may still be able to benefit from group health insurance even though you are not currently employed, are a contract worker, small business owner, or your employer does not provide healthcare coverage. In general, an association or membership organization is a group created to support the interests of people in a specific industry or trade.
Depending on the state you live in, there are ways to get group health insurance through associations and membership organizations. Unlike individual health insurance plans that include an underwriting process that requires a health exam and have a high turn-down rate, with group health insurance, the chances of getting coverage declined are minimal and the coverage includes most major benefits. Group coverage also tends to have much smaller deductibles than individual healthcare resulting in a reduction of out-of-pocket spend.
This is because, even if you are an “individual”, you can take advantage of the benefits offered by an association or “partnership”. It is offered conveniently as an in-app purchase when enrolling in health insurance via the Candor* app. Another major reason to purchase healthcare coverage through the app is the additional bundling of Prosper Benefits** that include products like Teladoc, discounts for vision and dental coverage, and even plans to cover MRIs and CT scans and more.
The simplicity of buying healthcare coverage through the use of the Candor app enables enrollment in a fraction of the normal time, clearly shows major Carrier pricing, and enables you to join the association simultaneously, all while receiving quality coverage and the bundling of Prosper Benefits.
Healthcare coverage is a big expense for many self-employed workers and individuals. The savings for enrolling through a “partnership or association” far outway the fee, often reducing the premiums by 30% to 50% and the new member is entitled to all benefits. An independent contractor, freelancer etc can also deduct the cost of health insurance premiums.
“If [consumers] can join large groups, get protection and less expensive insurance … it will solve a lot of problems in the individual market,” Senator Paul said on the NBC show “Morning Joe.”
According to HealthAffairs.org, Association healthcare coverage has been especially popular with small businesses and individual consumers because of a presumption that large groups have more market clout and negotiating power than small groups or individuals, a promise of better rates and benefits, and, in some cases, a promise of more consumer protections than are available in the individual market. According to researchers, one of every four employers (and one of every three businesses with fewer than ten employees) provides benefits through association-type arrangements. Some data are available from state insurance regulators in support of this finding. For example, regulators in Georgia estimate that associations cover 1.5 million residents, in contrast to the state’s traditional small-group market that covers 300,000 people.
So, take a look at what is available to you as an “individual’, you might be surprised to see just how much value is achievable.
Candor is a technology and marketplace company providing powerful analytics, tools, and methodologies to benefit agencies, carriers, and health care providers. We are the health companion that enables Americans to access the information and solutions they need to achieve a state of complete independence, success and wellbeing.
Prosper Benefits: This discount card program is NOT insurance, not intended to replace insurance, and does not meet the minimum creditable coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act or Massachusetts M.G.L. c. 111M and 956 CRM 5.00. It contains a 30-day cancellation period, provides discounts only at the offices of contracted health care providers, and each member is obligated to pay the discounted medical charges in full at the point of service. For more information and complete list of disclosures, please click here.
The World Health Organization defines wellness as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.“
Millennials, who tend to value experiences over things, are more in tune with their bodies and how the body responds to the way they think, feel, and act. This “mind/body connection” is revealed when they are stressed, anxious, or upset, and results in how their body reacts and tells them that “something isn’t right”.
Poor emotional health can weaken the body’s immune system. This makes getting a cold and other infections during emotionally difficult times more likely. Also, stress contributes to a lack of attention to overall health. Your Millennial may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods, or taking medicine that their doctor prescribes. They may abuse alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
The Millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, is tech savvy, entrepreneurial and educated.
Millennials reject labels, and specifically the term “activist;”
Millennials identify more as “conservative-leaning” than “liberal-leaning”;
Millennials prefer creating change among family and friends, rather than large networks.
Millennials have concern, not just for their physical health, but their total well being.
For many Millennials, maintaining an optimal level of wellness is absolutely crucial to their lives and quality of life. Wellness matters. They feel their well-being directly affects their actions and emotions. It’s an ongoing circle. Therefore, it is important for them to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.
It is important to pay attention to self-care, relaxation, stress reduction and the development of inner resources to learn and grow from experiences, but one of the biggest triggers is money. Financial Wellness involves the process of learning how to successfully manage financial expenses. Money may not appear to play a critical role in their lives, but not having enough of it impacts health as well as academic performance. Financial stress is repeatedly found to be a common source of stress, anxiety and fear for college students.
Physical wellness relates to maintaining a healthy body and seeking care when needed. Physical health is attained through exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep and paying attention to the signs of illness and getting help when needed.
Social wellness helps the Millennial perform social roles effectively andcomfortablywhile creating a support network. This dimension of wellness allows them to not only develop encouraging relationships with peers, but also intimate relationships with romantic partners.
According to Shauna Ward of Candor, Millennials now can take advantage of Lifestyle Benefits Programs including Telehealth, Health Advocacy, Alternative Medicine, Dental, Vision and more. Lifestyle Medical, a national marketplace for steeply discounted lifestyle benefits membership packages, has joined with Candor to offer, not only inexpensive, members-only lifestyle benefits, but access to major medical healthcare coverage.
For example, Teladoc is a program offering 24/7 access to a doctor with only a call or click —anytime, anywhere with no per visit fee. With Teladoc, you can talk to a doctor by phone or online video to get a diagnosis, treatment options and prescription if medically necessary. Millennials can save time and money by avoiding crowded waiting rooms in the doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or ER just by using their phone, computer, smartphone or tablet to get a quick diagnosis by a U.S. licensed physician.
According to Forbes …..”physicians providing care via technology have the same ethical responsibilities as those providing care in brick and mortar environments. These responsibilities include providing competent care, respecting patient privacy and confidentiality, taking appropriate steps to ensure continuity of care and, follow best practice guidelines.”
According to the Case Foundation, Millennials will make up roughly 50% of the US workforce in 2020 and 75% of the global workforce by 2030 – their wellness will be important to all of us. Look into Lifestyle Medical’s Wellness Benefits, part of Candor’s healthcare coverage offerings, today. Your Millennial will thank you.
During the Obama administration, the so-called “open enrollment” period for health insurance was designed to encourage as many people as possible to sign up. It lasted a full 26 weeks during the first year of the ACA (Obamacare), and for the last three years the enrollment window has been 13 weeks.
That has drastically changed for 2018 because of the political battle over Obamacare.
Less than three months after taking office, the Trump administration cut this year’s open enrollment period to just six weeks. That gave health care consumers a much shorter window in which to make important decisions for the coming year.
Eight states (most of them “blue” states) and the District of Columbia, though, went over the administration’s head in unprecedented fashion. They took advantage of an ACA provision, which gives states operating their own exchanges the option to override federal enrollment guidelines and offer longer enrollment periods.
Here’s a look at where things stand.
States with Extended Open Enrollment Periods
Two states (plus Washington D.C.) have extended their open enrollment periods all the way until January 31, 2018 – which was going to be this year’s final sign-up date, until the Trump administration changed the enrollment period.
You could probably guess which states acted on their own because they’re the largest blue states on the map: New York and California.
Four more states will allow health insurance signups and carrier/plan changes through their exchanges until mid-January. In Colorado enrollment is open until the 12th of January, it’s the 14th in Minnesota, Washington State consumers have until January 15th to enroll, and in Massachusetts the deadline is the 23rd.
Finally, two states have extended the sign-up period until later in December: Connecticut until December 22nd, and Rhode Island until the 31st.
Three more states run their own health exchanges but are sticking with the federal December 15 enrollment deadline. They are Idaho, Maryland and Vermont.
Other Changes for 2018
The political fight over the future of the ACA has led to several other changes to the way that the system works.
First, the government doesn’t trust enrollees to tell the truth.
In past years, people could change their plans by claiming a “special circumstance” (like a marriage, birth or job switch that caused them to lose health insurance). That created a 60-day “special enrollment period” which didn’t have to coincide with open enrollment.
For 2018 coverage, enrollees can’t just claim a special circumstance. They have to prove it by submitting supporting documents right after they apply to change their coverage.
Second, it’s no longer possible to move to a different health plan during open enrollment unless current payments are up to date. There’s a common-sense reason for this change, though. Some people deliberately skipped health insurance payments toward the end of the year, and then switched to a new plan so they could “start fresh” without any penalty. Now, that loophole is closed.
Finally, the ongoing political battles over Obamacare mean that most public exchanges will have fewer carriers and plans to choose from – and that premiums will be higher.
But anyone who buys their health insurance through a public exchange, or watches the news, already knew that.
The option that offers the biggest selection of carriers and plans available anywhere, and finds health insurance priced to fit any budget, is a private health insurance marketplace like Candor.
The Candor app takes guesswork out of health care enrollment, making the process simple and easy to understand. It’s the smartest choice anyone can make during open enrollment.
Actually, you may be doing just that. If you make a decent living, an HSA – a Health Savings Account – can save you thousands of dollars, for just a small annual fee.
HSAs have been around since 2003. They’re tax-advantaged savings accounts that can be used to pay any “qualified” medical expenses: doctor’s and dentist’s bills, hospital visits, prescriptions, even eyeglasses or transportation to a medical appointment.
You can’t buy over-the-counter medications, pick up some toothpaste or pay your health club fees with an HSA, but that’s a small sacrifice to make for the huge advantages you gain.
There are two important things to know about these savings accounts.
You’re only eligible to open an HSA if you have a high deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), meaning your annual deductible for 2018 has to be at least $1,350 ($2,700 for family coverage).
You need to make enough to fund your account; the maximum contribution for the coming year is $3,450 ($6,900 for families), with an extra allowance of $1,000 for those over age 55.
There are more benefits to having a Health Savings Account than you might guess. Here are six reasons to start an HSA as soon as you’re eligible.
1. Tax-Free Money
Without an HSA, you pay your medical bills with cash, a check or a credit card. All of those come out of your pocket, after taxes have been taken out of your paycheck.
If your HSA is set up through your employer, however, contributions are made from your pay before taxes are taken out. If you’ve set up your account on your own (you can do that at any bank), you can deduct the contributions from your taxable income.
Either way, that means you don’t have to pay taxes on the HSA funds you use to pay medical bills. That can add up to well over a thousand dollars a year in tax-free money.
2. Lower Health Care Premiums
A high deductible health plan requires you to pay a lot of money to doctors and pharmacies before your insurance company starts reimbursing you. The out-of-pocket maximums will be higher than normal, too. The flip side of that bargain, though, is that HDHP premiums are a lot cheaper. An HDHP can lower your monthly payments by as much as 50% over “standard” policies.
3. Even More Free Money
Some employers make their own contributions to employees’ HSAs, as a way to encourage their workers to see a doctor regularly and stay healthy. The only thing better than funding an HSA with tax-free money – is doing it with someone else’s money.
4. The Account Belongs To You
If you have an account set up by your employer, the account belongs to you and not them. If you quit or are fired, you can take your HSA – and the money inside it – with you. That’s very different than with an employer-provided FSA (Flexible Savings Account), which the company usually keeps if you leave.
5. Pay for Non-Covered Expenses
Coverage for dentist or optometrist visits normally requires separate dental or vision insurance, and your health plan may not cover acupuncture, fertility treatments or psychiatrist visits. All of those medical costs, and many more costs often excluded by health insurance plans, can be paid with money from your HSA.
6. An HSA is a Great Investment Vehicle
All of the interest earned by the money in your account accumulates tax-free, forever. You don’t have to use a low-interest savings account for many HSAs, either; if you set up your own account you can put the money into CDs, mutual or money market funds. Some employers offer that flexibility as well.
Finally, once you turn 65 you can withdraw money from your HSA for any purpose at all – without the normal 20% tax penalty. In other words, even more tax-free money.
It’s rare to see a news story about medical costs that doesn’t describe them as “high,” “rising,” “soaring” or “out of control.”
Of course, unless you’re young and never go to the doctor, you’re already painfully aware of how onerous health care costs have become.
But there are ways to lower the amount you have to spend out-of-pocket for medical care.
Here are six easy steps you can take.
1. Use a Comprehensive Online Tool to Choose Your Insurance
Comparing benefits and prices – not to mention deductibles, copayments, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximums – by poring over brochures or print-outs, or going back and forth between windows on your computer or phone, is only slightly more productive than tossing a coin.
Every health care carrier has different terms and different terminology, and they make it as hard as they can to look at choices side-by-side. If you’ve ever tried to pick a health insurance plan you already know how frustrating the experience can be.
The best way to choose the right insurance for your needs and budget is to use an online comparison tool.
Unfortunately, most don’t show you every plan available, and they don’t give you any real idea how much you’d actually have to pay when you see the doctor for bronchitis or go to the hospital for an operation.
A comprehensive tool like the Candor Insurance App is designed to solve all of those issues. You simply enter all of your important information like age, family situation, lifestyle, and budget. You’ll then see the actual amounts you’d pay with each plan, you’ll be able to easily choose the carrier and plan that works best for you – and you’ll save a boatload of money.
2. Only Use In-Network Doctors, Hospitals and Pharmacies
Every insurance plan has contracts with a network of favored health care providers who have negotiated lower prices for your care. That means the insurer – and you – have to pay less for “in-network” care than if you visit an “out-of-network” provider who hasn’t cut a deal with the insurance company.
Almost all networks have great doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies; just be sure to stay in-network to get the best prices.
3. Use a Health Savings Account or a Flexible Spending Account
Many employers let you set up one of these accounts to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs with pre-tax dollars. An HSA is preferable to an FSA but used properly, either one can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in taxes.
4. Don’t Automatically Run to the Emergency Room
It costs a lot more to be treated at the ER than at an urgent care clinic or at the doctor’s office, and calling an ambulance will add another big bill. (The wait at the emergency room is usually a lot longer, too.) Before automatically heading to the ER, remember the word “emergency” is in the phrase “emergency room” for a reason.
5. An Insurance Company’s First Word Isn’t Always Final
Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies all make billing mistakes. If a claim is denied but you don’t think it should have been, call to ask for explanations, talk to supervisors or file appeals, and contact state regulatory officials if necessary. It may take a lot of time and cause a lot of aggravation, but it can really be worth it.
6. Talk to Your Doctor or Hospital
As we’ve mentioned, insurance companies negotiate with medical providers for lower prices. You can, too. A doctor or hospital won’t automatically give you a discount, but there’s a good chance they will if you tell them about your financial situation and concerns about being able to pay. At the very least, most providers will set up payment plans to make things easier.
That’s not always a bad thing. Thanksgiving wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without a turkey dinner and football. Families have always looked forward to graduation ceremonies as a memorable way to mark an important achievement.
Small businesses often stick with another tradition: offering group health insurance as an employee benefit.
That one, though, doesn’t always make sense. More and more employers are switching from group plans to defined contribution health plans.
What Are Defined Contribution Plans?
In a nutshell, defined contribution plans replace traditional company group health coverage with lump-sum payments to employees to be used for health insurance costs.
Some employers simply increase their workers’ taxable income, to give them enough money to shop for a health plan on a federal or state health exchange (or if the employees are smart, on a private exchange).
The majority of small businesses, though, work directly with a private health insurance marketplace and make benefit payments directly to the marketplace.
That’s a big benefit for employees, because private health insurance marketplaces like Candor Insurance (one of the nation’s largest and most advanced marketplaces) offer an enormous selection of plans from all major insurance carriers. By contrast, carriers usually don’t let small businesses offer their complete menu of health plans available to private marketplaces.
This setup gives employees a much greater choice of insurance options. They’re able to pick the health plan that works best for their needs, their family situation and their budget – and not stuck choosing from the small selection of plans offered through their employer.
Workers aren’t the only ones who benefit from defined contribution plans, though. Employers do, too.
Why Employers Should Offer Defined Contribution Health Plans
Switching to a defined contribution health plan makes life a lot easier for small business owners and human resources departments, while saving the company money and creating a more satisfied workforce. Here’s how that all works.
Ease of administration: The business no longer has to answer employees’ questions about benefits or handle problems with their claims. Once a company sets up a contract with a private health markatplaces, it simply has to make the payments.
If the benefits are being paid directly to employees, adjustments just have to be made in the company’s existing payroll software. The workers are the ones responsible for selecting and purchasing their insurance, and dealing with the carrier.
Tax benefits: The IRS considers an employer’s defined benefit contributions to be tax deductible.
Predictable costs: Defining the amount the company will contribute to employees’ health care in advance makes the budget line item simple and predictable. When health insurance premiums go up, as they almost always do every year, the business can decide whether to increase its contributions or pass the price hike on to employees.
The bottom line: companies with defined benefit plans don’t face the annual, automatic premium increases that come with offering group health insurance.
Flexibility in employee categories: The business can choose to offer different health care reimbursements for different classes of workers, like hourly employees or salaried employees.
Happier employees: A defined contribution health plan gives workers more choice, lets them opt for lower-cost policies, and allows them to put their health care “savings” into HSA accounts. They’re also able to see exactly how much the employer is paying to subsidize their health care.
Obtaining group health insurance through your employer is simple, because there are usually only just a few plans to choose from. You fill out the forms, give them to your human resources department, and you’re done.
In reality, finding and purchasing the perfect individual plan can be even easier than doing it through your workplace – and if you buy your own health insurance the right way, you can end up with much better coverage at a lower price.
Here’s a quick guide on how to do it.
Step One: Figure Out What You Need
A healthy 25-year old will normally need very different coverage than a 45-year old with a family. They’ll each need different plans than someone who has chronic or serious health issues.
Never look for health insurance without assessing your own needs first. These are a few questions that can help:
Is the coverage just for you or for other family members as well?
Are you healthy? How often do you usually have to see a doctor? What types of doctors do you visit? Do you have specific doctors you want to continue to see?
Do you take a lot of prescription medications? Do you use generics or do you need brand names? Are any of them specialty drugs or extremely expensive?
The answers will help you decide how robust a health plan you need, whether it’s worth paying higher premiums in order to get low deductibles, co-pays or out-of-pocket maximums, and if there are specialties (psychiatry, for example) which your plan must cover.
Those answers will also let you decide if you have to choose a health plan that has your current doctor(s) in its participating network. And they’ll give you a good idea of the type of prescription coverage you’ll need.
Step Two: Understand the Options
Like any industry, insurance carriers use a lot of specialized terms, acronyms and abbreviations. There are some terms you definitely should understand before trying to figure out which plan is right for you.
Deductible: The annual amount you have to spend out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in.
Copayment: The dollar amount you have to pay upfront for any medical service or prescription.
Coinsurance: The percentage you have to pay for normal medical expenses. See below for an explanation of bronze, silver, gold and platinum copayments.
Out-of-Pocket Maximum: After you’ve spent the annual maximum, your insurance covers all other charges in full for the rest of the year.
HMO (Health Maintenance Organization): Your carrier will only pay claims for doctors in the HMO network, and you need a referral to see a specialist.
PPO (Preferred Provider Organization): You can see any doctor you like, but insurers will pay smaller reimbursements for doctors who aren’t in the PPO network. You won’t need referrals at all.
EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization): You have the same choice as in a PPO, without needing referrals, but insurers won’t pay at all if you decide to go out of network.
POS (Point of Service): A hard-to-understand mix of HMO and PPO plans that you won’t see very often.
FSA (Flexible Savings Account): A savings account set up through (and owned by) your employer, which lets you save pre-tax dollars to cover out-of-pocket health care expenses.
HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan): These plans require you to pay a lot out-of-pocket (because of the high deductible) before insurance starts paying anything, but having an HDHP lets you have an HSA. What’s that?
HSA (Health Savings Account): A savings account set up through your employer or privately (and always owned by you) that lets you save pre-tax dollars for out-of-pocket health care expenses – with the unspent principal and interest rolling over from year to year. You must have a HDHP to open an HSA.
Bronze, Silver,Gold and Platinum: The different levels of coverage commonly offered by insurance carriers, listed from lowest to highest premium. Bronze plans generally pay 60% of your bills after deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, silver pays 70%, gold pays 80% and platinum pays 90%.
Step Three: Decide Where to Shop
The first question to ask here is “What’s your family’s annual income?”
The reason is this: if you make less than $47,520 per year (or about $64,000 for a family of two, $80,000 for a family of three, $97,000 for a family of four) you’re eligible for Obamacare subsidies on a public health marketplace.
Otherwise, you’ll have four options. You can still purchase from a public marketplace, just without subsidies. You can take advantage of group plans offered by your employer. You can find health insurance on your own, perhaps working through an insurance broker or going directly to an insurance company’s website.
Or you can research and choose your health insurance through a private exchange like Candor Insurance. That’s an option that’s becoming more and more popular because private health insurance marketplaces offer the greatest range of carriers and plans, allowing you to tailor your plan to your needs and budget. The most advanced marketplaces, like Candor, also make the process painless through their apps and online tools.
Step Four: Purchase Your Insurance
You now know just about everything you need to buy your own health insurance – so go for it. You never know if you’ll be hit by a bus while you’re procrastinating.
Just one final word: we weren’t totally kidding when we said “good luck” at the start of this article.
Insurance carriers don’t make things easy if you’re shopping for a health plan on your own. Comparing specifics and premiums across various websites can get complicated and frustrating.
If you get lost in the numbers and are ready to give up, remember what we mentioned about private marketplaces. They have state-of-the-art tools to help you easily compare plans and choose the right one for your circumstances.
Using the Candor app to find individual health insurance has saved a lot of people a lot of time, a lot of headaches and a lot of money.
The Internet is almost fully integrated into our everyday lives.
We all consider it the “new normal” – except perhaps for the grumpy old men who spend their summers outdoors on folding chairs, yelling “get off of my lawn!” (No offense meant to grumpy old women or grumpy young people.)
The far-reaching effects of our connected world include the creation of many new industries. We may not know what they’re called, but they make our online lives easier and we take them for granted.
One of the most important is known as SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service. Even if you don’t know the name, you know the benefits.
A SaaS company provides the platform from which you download and use apps, with the processing and storage all handled in the cloud. Dropbox, Salesforce and Netflix are three common examples.
That’s why it’s called “Software as a Service.” Instead of buying programs and installing hard copies on your computer or device, you’re essentially buying or renting the use of the software. That’s the service that SaaS vendors provide.
Companies moving from direct sales to the SaaS industry quickly find that the marketing process is very different than the one they’re accustomed to. Here are five top guidelines that can minimize the learning curve.
1) Determine Your Target Audience and USP – and Stay True to Them
If you see thousands of people sitting an arena for a concert or sporting event, it’s natural to think about how much money you could make if just half of them bought your product.
That temptation is even greater if you think about the three billion people now estimated to be online. 3,000,000,000 people – what an enormous target audience for an online service!
Here’s the problem. Only a fraction of that arena crowd is really your target audience, and only a fraction of the three billion people on the Internet will be interested in your service.
Don’t give into the urge to market to that mass audience. Before doing anything else, determine your real target audience, the USP (unique selling point) that would appeal to potential customers, and the best way to reach them.
Only then should you develop a marketing program. And don’t be tempted by early success to expand your reach beyond your target audience. That’s a prescription for failure. Instead…
2) Create New Products or Value-Added Offerings
Growth is crucial for SaaS companies, but how do you achieve it once you’ve gained traction? There are two ways.
First, create add-on services that existing customers will find useful. It’s easier to convince existing users to pay a little more for a cool new feature that will meet more of their needs, than it is to find brand-new customers.
Second, most of those three billion people may not need your existing service, but many may want one that’s in the same general ballpark. Concentrate product development efforts on related services which are easy for you to deliver and can expand your customer base.
3) Keep Prospects Engaged
Most SaaS products aren’t impulse purchases. Prospects can easily compare competing services online, and attracting them to your platform is no guarantee that they’ll buy from you.
Continuing engagement is a major key to marketing your software service.
Marketing your product on all available platforms with useful and interesting content will keep your product front of mind and keep potential customers engaged with your brand.
A well-designed sales interface that clearly demonstrates the USP and walks the prospect through the signup process keeps them engaged until they buy.
Continued interaction with customers via in-app messaging, emails or other methods encourages them to become personally invested in the service. That keeps them using the app and renewing the service month after month.
Speaking of renewing…
4) Be Realistic
The most profitable sales model involves recurring revenue generated by renewals. Not all customers will stay forever, though. Many won’t remain after a free or bargain trial period, and many more will quickly abandon the app or find an alternative they like better.
Blue sky projections on recurring numbers can be dangerous. Be as realistic as possible when making renewal and income projections, and regularly update those projections as you get data on how “sticky” your product is.
And if renewal rates are low, you’ve got a problem with either your product or sales process. Don’t wait for things to get better; fix the problem, or realize the service may not be as viable as you originally thought.
5) Test and Optimize, Rinse and Repeat
Most online businesses understand that testing, monitoring key metrics and optimization are integral to launching a product or platform. A common pitfall for SaaS businesses, however, is to be satisfied with “success” and turn all of their attention to new products or markets.
That ignores the fact that the market and the competition are constantly changing. You need to be constantly changing, too. Testing, monitoring and optimizing remain just as important as your app matures. Otherwise, an app that’s initially a “great success” can quickly become a brief mention or footnote on a Wikipedia page.
It’s open enrollment season, and everyone’s talking about the best ways to get healthcare coverage. If you’re helping a Millennial or other family member choose the right plan, knowing where to look for appropriate plans is the first challenge. Options include public exchanges, private exchanges, and employer-subsidized insurance. Let’s look at the key differentiators of the first two.
The difference between public exchanges and private marketplaces is pretty straightforward:
A private health insurance marketplace is run by a private company.
A public health insurance exchange is run by a government (or government-contracted) entity.
When considering individual health care options, or coverage for a company’s employees, it’s important to remember the two are very different and that, generally, private healthcare coverage marketplaces offer more choices for individuals and employees. To make the best possible decision, consider the differences between these two platforms.
Public exchanges are synonymous with the Affordable Care Act. Public exchanges are sponsored by the state or federal government and offer services for individuals and small companies with up to 50 employees. Public exchange coverage programs are paid for by individuals and small companies, although many public exchange plans are also covered by government subsidies.
Private marketplaces are run by private companies and offer more health care choices for individuals, and employees of companies large and small. Unlike public exchanges, private benefits marketplaces like Candor() offer a variety of vision, dental and Tele-health benefits, along with other ancillary options, such as pet care all in one online place, which allows employees to tailor a plan to fit their specific needs.
Additionally, private marketplaces also offer the benefit of ‘defined contributions’ (an affordable alternative to employer-sponsored group health insurance plans). This means employers can define their annual contribution budget and offer employees more freedom in how they choose to shop for coverage.
You can purchase your own “private” policy at any time, and employers usually have defined enrollment periods set by their plan providers. If you’re using a public Obamacare exchange, though, there’s a limited time each year when you can enroll in or change your health insurance plan (unless you’ve had a “qualifying life event” like a marriage, birth, or job change that causes you to lose employer-provided insurance).
Private marketplaces create predictability. You’re buying a more budget-friendly solution that helps employers remove themselves from employees’ insurance choices, and helps individuals managing their own health plans.
In addition to the differences noted above, look at the differences between different private marketplaces. If you’re considering buying coverage on a private marketplace, ask the following questions:
Does the private marketplace offer additional wellness benefits?
Are you able to secure your coverage simply and cost effectively?
Are you able to comparison shop between insurance carriers?
Are you able to find plans your doctor accepts?
Are you able to get deep discounts on related services including Dental, Vision, MRI and CT Scans, Counseling, Alternative Medicine etc?
Some experts suggest looking beyond the official federal and state marketplaces. One option is to check out a private marketplace offering wellness benefits as well as appropriate health insurance plans, such as Candor. Candor has developed an app that makes it easy to find the healthcare coverage you need. The app and its associated software platform incorporate tools and support for partner insurance agencies health insurance carriers, wellness providers and healthcare providers.
Download the app today to see if private marketplace healthcare coverage is right for you, and visit https://candor.insurance for additional information.