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Posted in Insurance

A Rant about the Pronunciation of a Single Term in Govt-Sponsored Healthcare

Americans have a reputation in some parts of the world for being lazy with their speech habits, although we like to consider ourselves coolly efficient and unwilling to put up with hoity-toity speech.  This cool efficiency means that we feel fine when we use the same pronunciation for different ideas; for example, the pronunciations of the words vane, vein, and vain. I do not feel too bad about those similar pronunciations since, at least, the American rules of spelling and pronunciation support their sounding the same. But there are two words that should not sound the same since they are spelled so differently:

Credible and Creditable

The spelling of the second word, creditable, the term that is important to government-sponsored healthcare regulation like Medicare, should not be pronounced as kre-duh-buhl, as if it were credible. Creditable‘s spelling indicates that it should have 4 syllables during pronunciation, not 3. I offer you this easy-to-say alternative pronunciation:  kruh-DIT-uh-buhl, the stress being on the second syllable. Saying it this way, your tongue does not trip; your lips do not suffer irreparable damage. Plus, such pronunciation involves an acceptable amount of cool American efficiency, an amount that we can be proud of.  You can tell that just the cool amount of efficiency is there from all the “uh’s” in the pronunciation. Best of all, such a pronunciation easily distinguishes it from credible.

Promote this pronunciation among your friends! I will be grateful that you did.

What do you think? Could we build a social movement around improving the pronunciation of a single word? (Everyone else in the country is building a social movement around a bunch of other trivial ideas, so why not us!)

By the way, this trivial opinion is just mine, not Stone Hill's.—Doug
Posted in Medicare, Personal Enrichment Tagged with: , , ,

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Posted in Insurance

Make sure your social media outreach complies with Medicare’s Marketing Guidelines

September 10, 2015 | by Justin Bever

[small revisions done on the original article]

Since I last wrote about making sure your custom Medicare marketing website is compliant, CMS and individual carriers have drastically increased their oversight for agents’ websites and use of social media. Many carriers now require agents to submit all of their website content for approval and ask questions about how we as agents are using social media to communicate with our clients.

CMS launched an official Facebook page for Medicare recently, which might be what spurred several carriers to send mandatory surveys to agents (You can view it by clicking here). Agents are required to complete these surveys, which go over what kind of communications we use to generate new business, if at all. They cover use of social media as well as online Lead generation services.

This scope of the Medicare Marketing Guidelines extends to all electronic communications, including websites, email and social media. As agents we need to be diligent about how we use social media and other online media to generate new opportunities. After all, we always need to be in compliance with the Medicare Marketing Guidelines if we want to continue selling.

Here are three easy tips to follow for using social media compliantly.

Do not engage in unsolicited contact. The Medicare Marketing Guidelines prevent agents from making unsolicited contact to a Medicare beneficiary for the purposes of enrolling them into a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan. This extends to social media and should be considered prior to reaching out to beneficiaries on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other social media website. Unless you were contacted first, do not send private messages or leave comments for beneficiaries advertising your service — CMS can consider these actions to be unsolicited contact. Don’t let a Facebook private message be your downfall!

Don’t make false statements or claims. While this tip seems pretty common sense, social media is often full of exaggeration and partisan information. Your opinions are important, but remember as a senior insurance advisor, anything you post could be reviewed by CMS for compliance if it ultimately led you to a sale.

Make sure your profiles are set to private. Social media is the ultimate public forum. Agents may sometimes get requests from beneficiaries through a public forum like Twitter or a from Facebook comment asking for help. Always direct beneficiaries to a private form of communication prior to discussing their unique situation, even if they have already shared part of their story on the public page.

Here’s the reason why: As covered entities under HIPPA, agents are required to make every effort to protect a member or prospective member’s Personal or Protected Health Information.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these three rules can help you remain compliant when using social media or other digital media to communicate with your clients or prospects.

Posted in Boomer Products, Business Development, Medicare, Sales & Marketing, Technology Tagged with:

How To: Online Enrollments for Regence BCBS (aka Cambria)

Subject: 2017 Online MA/PDP Enrollment Links

Dear Valued Medicare Producer,

For the Regence Medicare Advantage online enrollments, agents will have a separate Personal URL link (PURL) to use for the 2017 plans.  This gives agents the control to send their client an enrollment link specific to their personal needs based on when they want coverage to begin.  This also eliminates the need for clients to indicate a requested effective date prior to seeing the plan information.

**You simply need to change ONE number in your existing 2016 PURL to quote 2017 rates and benefit**

 See below.

If you have a client who is new to Medicare or qualifies for an SEP and is looking for coverage to begin November or December 1st, you will continue to send them your 2016 PURL. Beginning on October 1st, you will start using your new 2017 PURL to send to clients who are shopping for coverage to begin on or afterJanuary 1, 2017.  Please note that you will no longer use your 2016 PURL after November 30th.

The new 2017 enrollment links will have the same look and work the same as the 2016 enrollment links, but will have the 2017 plan information and rates.


  • The 2017 Agent Portal and 2017 PURL links will not work until Oct 1, 2016.
  • When quoting 2017 benefits, the “Apply” button will not be activated until Oct 15, 2016.

Below are instructions on how to access your 2017 link, based on your situation:


Your PURL will be very similar, the only change being the year2016 will be replaced with 2017.  You can either:

  1. Manually change the year in your PURL by replacing 2016 with 2017.  Examples:


  1. Log into the 2017 Agent Portal at https://regence.isf.io/2017/agent (and/or https://asuris.isf.io/2017/agent) and click “View Enrollments”.
  • NOTE: The username (email address) and password are the same login credentials used to log into the 2016 Agent Portal. If you cannot remember your password, go to https://arm.ascendproject.com and click “Forgot Your Password?”. You will enter your email address and Ascend will send you instructions on how to reset your password.


 There is a 2 step process to set-up your online enrollment link

  • Go to arm.ascendproject.com
  • Enter your email address as your username (the one your received this notice at)
  • Enter Regence1 as the temporary password
  • You will be prompted to create a new password. It must be a minimum of 8 characters, with at least one capital letter, one lower case letter, and one number.
  • Log out
  • Go to:

o   Regence Agent Portal: https://regence.isf.io/2017/agent.

o   Asuris Agent Portal: https://asuris.isf.io/2017/agent (username and password is the same for both Regence/Asuris)

  • Enter your username and password created in the prior step
  • Click on the “View Enrollments” link on the top right-hand part of the screen (in the black header) – you will be presented with aRegence/Asuris link (Personal Enrollment URL) that you can copy to email or use with a client online, or as an application link on your website.

 Here are a few important tips about your online enrollment links:

  • Please copy the link and store it in an easily accessible place or bookmark it. This link ensures the app will be tied to you for commissioning purposes.
  • If you lose or misplace the link, you can log back into the Ascend Agent Portal anytime to get the quoting/app link.
  • If you do not see the “View Enrollment”, please log off and log back in
  • IMPORTANT: Please do NOT begin an app in the Agent Portal. Be sure to log out of the Agent Portal and then use your Personal URL to quote and enter online application information.

COMING SOON – Regence/Asuris online Medigap applications will be moved to the same platform soon!  With the switch, agents will have one URL link to send to clients instead of two, and clients will be able to shop and compare all Regence Medicare plans in their area using the same link!  We will send additional information about this change when we get closer to the launch date.

 If you have any questions, please contact your Medicare Sales Executive or call Medicare Producer Support at 1-800-557-0555.

–          Your Medicare Sales Team

Ensure a sustainable future – only print when necessary.

Posted in Agent Only, Medicare Tagged with: , ,

Individual Exchange Health Plans to Go Up Average of 30 Percent

Christian Delbert, Shutterstock

SALT LAKE CITY — Rates for health insurance plans on the individual marketplace are likely to rise by an average of 30 percent next year, the Utah Department of Insurance said Thursday.

The second-lowest silver plan — the benchmark plan used to calculate tax subsidies for enrollees on the marketplace — is a SelectHealth plan with premiums of a little over $200 a month, according to insurance department officials.

Nov. 1 marks the beginning of the fourth open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which has struggled to win over skeptics as states face another year of rising premiums and insurers pulling out of the individual marketplace.

Jaakob Sundberg, a health actuary with the Utah Department of Insurance, acknowledged the increases are substantial but said it was the first year he has seen rates appropriately priced.

“Yes, the individual rate increase is significant,” Sundberg told lawmakers on the health reform task force at the state Capitol. “But when you consider the rate level relative to the benefits, it was definitely underpriced prior to this.”

He said the individual marketplace should see more stability in future years, despite some lawmakers expressing skepticism.

Health reform advocates reminded people to shop around if they want to avoid price hikes.

Jason Stevenson of the Utah Health Policy Project pointed out that 87 percent of Utahns on the marketplace get subsidies that lower the cost of their monthly premium by an average of 69 percent.

Those who shop around can expect their premiums go up slightly by about 8 to 10 percent, he estimated.

“Most people are not going to see a 30 percent increase,” Stevenson said.

Utahns who do not qualify for subsidies are likely to bear more of the brunt from the rate increases.

Small group plans will also see rate hikes of about 10 percent on average, according to insurance officials.

Stevenson said he believes rate hikes will continue for the next few years and said the success of the president’s health care law depends on factors like Medicaid expansion and competition.

The Utah Legislature has debated Medicaid expansion for years.

A small-scale Medicaid extension proposal passed last year is still under review by the federal government.

State Medicaid officials said on Thursday that the proposal — which is aimed at helping the poorest of the poor — will likely miss its hoped-for January deadline.

Nate Checketts, who oversees the state’s Medicaid and CHIP programs, said Utah officials were “hoping to get a sign” from federal officials by September that they were likely to approve Utah’s proposal. That “sign” hasn’t come.

“I think Jan. 1 would be a really hard thing to hit right now,” he said.

Lawmakers also heard updates on the cost of full Medicaid expansion based on a new report from the Legislature’s fiscal analysts.

Previous estimates put the cost of expanding Medicaid through the governor’s Healthy Utah plan at $78 million in return for hundreds of millions in federal funds.

The new analysis predicts that higher-than-expected enrollment and premium costs may push that figure closer to $92 million.

Utah would save $10 million in payments to the federal government if it expanded Medicaid and would receive roughly $100 million in return, according to the report.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the new analysis was “very helpful,” although he later clarified that he “is not saying (Medicaid expansion) will be brought up this session.”

But he pointed out that the state is already receiving more funds from the federal government — mostly due to individuals on the exchange receiving premium subsidies and cost-sharing benefits — than the state is sending back in taxes, fees and penalties.

“For people to say we need to expand to get our dollars back — we already have our dollars back,” Dunnigan said. “There might be other reasons to expand, but we’re not leaving other money to the feds.”

The analysis, which relied on rough estimates of how many Utahns would enroll in health insurance if the state were to fully expand Medicaid, will be updated further.

Utahns shopping for health insurance on the individual exchange next year can also expect to see fewer options, with the total number of plans dropping from 120 to 52 next year.

The marketplace in Utah lost one insurer after Humana pulled out earlier this year.

However, two other carriers are expanding their territory. Molina is expanding into Box Elder County, and University of Utah Health Plans will offer plans in Cache, Duchesne, Grand, Iron, Rich, Uinta and Washington counties, according to the insurance department.

Email: dchen@deseretnews.com Twitter: DaphneChen_

Posted in Government, Insurance Tagged with:

PHI Specified

PHI is health information that contains one or more of the following identifiers:

          a.       Names of individuals and relatives

          b.       Postal addresses

          c.       All elements of dates, like birthdates

          d.       Telephone and fax numbers

          e.       E-mail addresses

          f.        Social Security and Medicare numbers

          g.       Medical Record numbers

          h.       Account numbers

 HIPAA regulations define the standards required for securing PHI.

     a.    Administrative safeguards refer to policies and procedures created to manage and maintain security measures to protect protected health information.

     b.    Minimize the risk of unauthorized access to PHI by following physical security practices in a workplace.

     c.    Keep PHI out of clear view from the public (desks, copiers/fax machines) and stored in secure areas.

     d.    Dispose of documents and electronic media containing PHI in secured containers or by shredding.

     e.    Physically secure a laptop and other mobile equipment in locked drawers or by other appropriate means.

     f.     Never leave a laptop or smart phone unattended in a car or when traveling.  Treat a laptop or smart phone like cash.

     g.    Keep office doors and cabinets containing PHI locked.

     h.    Do not allow anyone to follow you into a secure location.

     i.      Only discuss PHI in private settings to avoid eavesdropping.

     j.     When accessing, storing, and/or transmitting PHI on computers, smart phones, USB drives, and other electronic devices, follow  procedures related to:

i.              Accessing only secured networks.

ii.             Encrypting e-mail and files containing PHI.

iii.            Using strong passwords.

iv.            Avoiding sending PHI in the clear (to a public email boxes like Gmail, MSN, Verizon).

Posted in Government Tagged with:

10 Top Social Media Marketing Trends To Look Out For In 2017

by Jeff Bullas

Social networks have been with us for just over a decade but it feels like forever.

When I first signed into Facebook I was amazed by how small the world had become. Friends, acquaintances and old college connections I hadn’t seen in decades and living in faraway places popped up on my screen. Maybe a little older, greyer and with less hair than I remembered.

It was a couple of months later and I joined Twitter. But I noticed the same behaviour. Obsession. This intersection of people and technology was resonating with our tribal curiosity and creativity. Technology was becoming more human.

Then the smart phone was added to the mix.

Social and mobile were the perfect storm. Today we are captivated and captured by both of these technologies. They are impacting how we work, socialize and play.

So what are the social media marketing trends today and how are they playing out for us as entrepreneurs and as passionate and complicated humans?

1: Live streaming video

YouTube was a sensation in 2004. That technology allowed us to record, upload and view but 12 years later the mobile phone has become a broadcasting device that allows you to capture the live moment. Not recorded and sanitized with editing but raw live footage.

Meerkat was one of the first social networks to make live streaming video easy, then Twitter bought Periscope and blocked Twitter’s sharing on Meerkat.

Blab tried hard for a year in 2015 and made some waves but has been switched off.

Now Facebook “Live” is taking on Twitter’s Periscope.

This trend is changing how we share our stories (both business and private), live events and educate. It is another way to engage with your audience.

Buzzfeed recorded a Facebook live stream that attracted millions of views. The topic? How many rubber bands does it take to burst a watermelon?

social media marketing trends

It can also be a new way to build trust and credibility online with authentic unfiltered content.

2. Chatbots are changing our conversations

Chatbots are a conversational agent that is designed to simulate intelligent conversation without a human being present.

In the artificial intelligence era it’s all about embedding human smarts in machines.

Facebook chatbots are one application of this revolution, as they rapidly gain popularity and provide a new tool for marketers to leverage. These chatbots are the incorporation of automatic chatbots within Facebook Messenger.

Chatbots offer flexibility in order to automate tasks, and assist in retrieving data. They are becoming a vital way to enhance the consumer experience for the purpose of better customer service and growing interaction.

In April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced that third parties could use the messenger platform to create their own personal chatbot. Since then, the popularity of chatbots has rapidly grown all over the world. Their prime functionality remains the same, and that is to improve real-time engagement.

Customers are always searching for prompt and ready replies to their comments and queries. The chatbots are designed in such a manner that they are able to answer most of the queries placed by customers, without human intervention.

Chotu, one of the leading chatbot technologies, is an AI robot on Facebook messenger that assists in accelerating customer information acquisition through Facebook messages. It provides all the needed information from your messages itself, rather than relying on several different apps working together.

Chotu performs multiple tasks at a single time and offers 24×7 customer service.

social media marketing trends chatbots

These can help in bonding a strong relationship with your customers and potential crowds, without paying for high overheads on staff.

3. Expiring social content

Attracting attention online is a battle between brands with big budgets and savvy marketers with little cash but who know how to hack business growth with technology.

The result? A lot of online noise and clutter. The challenge is standing out and gaining attention. Normal marketing tactics don’t work like they used to.

But Snapchat decided on a different tactic.

Make content expire.

This brought urgency to the content table. Visitors now knew that they had limited time to read or view content before it disappeared.

This included the watching of 10 second videos that are gone after one view and then it extended to Snapchat stories. These only last for 24 hours.

So Instagram saw the future and just “copied” SnapChat Stories and brought its own “Instagram Stories” to its platform.

social media marketing trends

Image source: Instagram

Expiring content is now part of the evolving social media landscape. It’s trending and the spurning of Facebook by Snapchat when they were offered a $3 billion buyout seems to have become personal.

Their message to Snapchat? If we can’t buy you we will beat you. Social media is no longer an experiment or a game. It is big business.

Expiring content is a trend you may need to test and try in your future digital marketing campaigns.

4. Social media consolidation

Any evolving industry moves from a Wild West frontier to a more centralized and concentrated group of players over time. In his book “Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” Tim Wu (a professor at Columbia University) reveals this pattern has been with us since the rise of the telephone in the 1800’s.

Social media is no different.

Facebook bought WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus Rift. Twitter paid for Periscope. And Microsoft just acquired LinkedIn for a lazy $27 billion.

social media marketing trendsImage source: Fortune.com

As big enterprise moves into the social media landscape the rules will continue to change. Control will be exerted and buying a seat at the table will become a high stakes game.

Expect this to continue as smaller social startups struggle to break through the clutter.

The significance for the modern marketer is that it is dangerous to assume that things will remain the same. You will need to watch the changing landscape and keep reinventing your tactics.

5. Organic social traffic gets harder

Earning attention in a digital world was straightforward at first. You earned it by growing Likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter. No need to beg the gatekeepers or pay the newspaper and media moguls.

But that is changing.

Facebook, Instagram and others are removing chronological timeline updates. They are starting to make you invisible unless you pull out the credit card. Social media is just becoming another paid media.

This is a simplified algorithm that shows the key factors behind how Facebook determines what they show to you the user. The reason? Too little space and too much content.


Image source: Business2community.com

This will make more businesses go back to digital basics. What does that mean for marketers?

  • Optimizing for search engines so you rank on the first page of Google
  • Building email lists so you can reach your own audience without a Google or Facebook algorithm blocking or filtering your content and updates.
  • Working harder at evolving skills that include growth hacking that is the new “art and science” of marketing.

So don’t put all your marketing eggs in the social media basket. It is time you pursued a multi channel strategy.

6. Automation moves to mainstream

The splintering of media from TV, radio and analogue to digital multimedia and social has made marketing a complicated and messy endeavour.

Managing that with a pencil, piece of paper, spreadsheet or a room of human worker bees is inefficient and doesn’t scale well.

Apps like Marketo, Hubspot and other marketing automation software platforms are now essential tools for any grownup marketer.

These are becoming smarter, more intuitive and cheaper to buy. If you aren’t using one today or thinking about it then you may find your competition giving you a marketing wakeup call.

Also……it’s costing you money.


Image source: IMCS360.com

7. Personalization becoming a priority

As tools have become smarter and people’s resistance to general advertising grows higher the need for personalized and relevant content and advertising delivery becomes more important.

Facebook re-targeting and adverts driven by identifying where you have been on the web and your interests are becoming the digital advertising tactic of choice for campaigns. It delivers relevant content that converts at a much higher rate.

Digital marketing automation also can provide the data and the tools to send the right content at the right time to the right customer.

Relevance is king for catching a distracted eye and online glance in a noisy world of data clutter.

8. The rise of the social influencer

The social web gave rise to global topic tribes.

Bloggers created content on fashion, food and thousands of other niche passions. They also built loyal followers and advocates on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They constructed credibility and trust built on authentic content.

social media marketing trends

Image source: Twitter

As the noise increases online and reaching your target customer gets harder because of content clutter the influencer and thought leaders who have built reach globally are the new niche gatekeepers.

Brands are now paying to reach their admirers and devotees.

9. Social media transforming business in a trust economy

Making a mistake or receiving a complaint in the past was behind closed doors. A telephone call, a letter or even an email discussion was private and hidden conversation for most.

Stuff up in a world of social networks is like airing your dirty washing in a stadium. It’s visible and sometimes viral.

Uber rates the driver “and” the passenger. Don’t drink too much and abuse the driver. Otherwise you may be walking a bit further in the future.

This visibility has been adopted from social.

So …transparency is the new business paradigm. Some brands just don’t know it yet.

10. Artificial intelligence and the rise of the robots

The rise of the robots has been predicted since we watched HAL in “Space Odyssey 2001” in what was another world in 1968. In the decades since we have seen the emergence of the personal computer, the internet, social networks and the mobile smart phone.

The intersection of these technologies is changing entertainment, business and our lives.

The last 2 are obsessive technologies that have made 7 billion of us publishers. We are now all video creators, selfie photo producers and writers that share by the billions every hour.

The result? A content explosion.

As the data volume has increased exponentially, the scale of the noise means that making sense of it needs artificial intelligence and machines with big powerful processors.

It includes search on Google and Facebook.

social media marketing trends

Image source: Boomtrain.com

Where is this artificial intelligence being used that maybe you don’t even notice on your favorite social media networks?

  • Tagging of friends on Facebook with facial recognition
  • Deep learning technology that is woven into Facebook’s suggestions, Newsfeed algorithms and trending topics
  • LinkedIn uses “AI” to provide better job matching between business and candidate
  • Pinterest uses the intelligence of the robots to boost image recognition and search

And this is just scratching the surface. Expect to see more of these technologies and trends emerge in digital marketing automation tools and beyond.

Posted in Business Development, Medicare, Sales & Marketing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,