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Selling Mini-Meds

Mini-meds offer small businesses an affordable way to provide health insurance benefits.

By Lisa Singh

Here’s a simple exercise: Take a drive around the block from your office. You may spot a few small businesses, like a printing press or bagel shop. If your focus is worksite marketing or if you want to enter this arena, some of your best prospects might be small businesses like these.

Many can’t afford health insurance for their low-wage and part-time workers and often see them come and go as a result. That’s where you can come in with a product that’s increasingly popular in worksite marketing. Limited medical plans, or “mini-meds,” are a product with a low monthly rate geared toward employers who can’t afford major medical for their staff but at least want to provide basic, preventive medical care.

The premise is simple: For a set dollar amount, say, $50 a month for each employee, employers can help pay for such services as doctor check-ups, prescription drug coverage and hospital stays. Many plans also have some built-in coverage for surgeries and emergency room visits. Employers can include other benefits, such as dental and vision or higher benefit payouts for categories already in place, depending on their budget.

A growing market
The times are certainly ripe for mini-med sales. A recent study by Aflac, for example, found that nearly half of all small-business owners believe they can’t attract and retain quality employees without offering competitive health benefits. That realization, coupled with the obvious consumer appeal of mini-meds’ cost-controlled price, explains why more carriers—Symetra, and more recently Aetna and UnitedHealth Group, for example—have jumped on the mini-med bandwagon. Financial advisors are doing the same.

“If you’re in the worksite-marketing arena, you need to offer a mini-med [product] immediately,” says Val Wheeler, LUTCF, RFC, and NAIFA member for the past 21 years. Wheeler is president of Southern Financial Group in Ardmore, Okla., and has sold mini-meds for the past six years to small-business owners who include print shop owners and home health-care providers. Wheeler’s target market is employers with 30 or fewer workers, and he sees an annual increase in sales of 20 percent. Along with the low monthly rate, the product appeals to his clients because it involves little red tape. “It’s extremely user-friendly,” says Wheeler. “There is a claim form but most people probably don’t even use it … [instead] they actually pay the bill, get a copy of the receipt and get reimbursed.”

Finding mini-med prospects
Wheeler recommends the old-fashioned approach: the Yellow Pages. When he cold-calls small businesses he asks, “What type of medical coverage do you currently have for your employees?” If the prospect says he offers nothing, and isn’t interested, either, Wheeler adds, “What is your retention factor?” Almost always the question’s enough to pique a prospect’s interest and have him agree to a 10-minute presentation. If cold-calling doesn’t appeal to you, Greg Clarke, a vice president with Symetra, a Washington-based company that specializes in employee benefits, retirement plans, annuities and life insurance, recommends another tack: mining your existing pool of clients.

Regardless of which road you take, Wheeler says it’s essential that you understand mini-meds’ scope before you go out and sell the product. “I would tell no one to sell this product in lieu of major medical,” says Wheeler, “This is primarily sold to someone who really doesn’t [offer] anything.” To help prospects understand what mini-meds will and will not pay for, Wheeler’s office coined the phrase, “medical alternative plan” a few years back. He says, “We make sure that everybody understands that this is not going to cover your major illnesses.” But he adds that for employers and many of America’s 45 million uninsured, “it’s a lot better than nothing.”

As for agents and advisors, Wheeler advises, “If you’re not in the worksite-marketing arena, and you need a way to give a huge boost to your income, get into [it].”


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