Archive for May, 2006


We have a podcast for you with Jim Fisher, president of IdeaStar, and Mike Wise, VP, discussing photography. If you ever visit the halls of our office in Cleveland you will see the walls covered with photographs. Since Jim is the president most of the photographs in the main hallways are his. Mike’s photographs are relegated to his office. Maybe someday Jim will allow one of Mike’s in the hall but don’t hold your breath.

Take a listen and hear a couple of shooters talk about their experiences and passions with the camera. The file is a biggie and lasts about 41 minutes!

Mike Wise with trusty monopod in hand. Mike loves sports shots especially of his two children, Zach, 17, and Kelle, 15. You can find his online portfolio here at SmugMug.

Jim Fisher loves shooting travel scenes like the Southern Bavarian Alps. Jim publishes his photos at his personal blog site and also sells his images globally through Alamy stock agency.

Below are a few of the images which Jim and Mike discuss in the podcast. You can click on any image to enlarge. Enjoy!

Bridge over Cuyahoga River, Cleveland OH by Jim Fisher

Reed Flute Cave, Guilin, China, by Jim Fisher

Ohio HS State Championship game-saving “Save” by Mike Wise.


I happened across an interesting article in Insurance & Technology. I&T interviewed a few tech-savvy CEO’s.

In one of the discussions, Ronald A. Williams, CEO and president of Aetna, discusses leveraging technology to “support the creation of a high-performance culture.”

The article states, “But technology isn’t just about convenience for Williams… It’s also been central to the company’s dramatic transformation into a profitable leader in the emerging consumer-directed healthcare (CDHC) market.”

The article goes on to quote Williams: “‘In 2005 we added one million new members, principally on the basis of the innovations we have developed using technology, and on the ability for us to integrate different components of the healthcare system — which has helped us lower medical costs and [provide] better quality…”

I find it interesting that, when you take a step back, using technology to create a high-performance culture is ‘news’ in the health and life space. Guess what — it’s old news in many other industries. Personally, my take on things is that in about 24 months, there will be those that mastered technology and business process automation and those that are now out of the business. It’s THAT important. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.”

Notice how Williams immediately references adding new members because of tech innovations. And he doesn’t mention anything about adverse selection issues that so many health and life executives still fear albeit unnecessarily. In fact, if I could summarize Williams comments, it sounds like my motto — “better, faster, cheaper.”

Stuff I wish he had mentioned:

  • Best practices in rapid development of new systems and platforms
  • How long did things take to develop and mature?
  • How much did they cost?
  • How nimble are the platforms?
  • Who were the project sponsors — marketing, IT, operations?

Also note that Aetna has a huge IT department that can be leveraged towards innovation. What about the rest of the world? I guess that’s where IdeaStar comes in — as long as CIO’s are willing to step aside and facilitate rapid development.

Williams’ comments on Consumer-Driven Health Care reminds me of a conversation I had at the MedSupp conference in New Orleans with Gary Jacobs, President of CHCS. He is committed to CDHC and is focused on leveraging technology as a means of achieving that end. Anyone that knows anything about CHCS will agree that they are perfectly positioned to realize tremendous gains from CDHC. CHCS is also positioned to be a significant change-agent in the health and life CDHC space, perhaps even more significantly in the senior health and life space. Yet another voice in the health and life industry calling for more Web-based functionality for agents and consumers… The lead-in article summarizes things like this: “However, the state of technology and its influence on the state of the industry ensures that increasing numbers of CEOs are more deeply acquainted with the potential [I say POWER] of technology for their enterprise’s success, and [are] more aggressive in driving its use for competitive advantage.” (emphasis added)

To that I say “AMEN!”


I gave a talk recently at the American Insurance Education Institute conference in New Orleans. The national forum, entitled Issues and Trends in Medicare Supplement Insurance, was for professionals who market, sell, price, administer and support Med Supp insurance.

The purpose of the talk was to discuss the use of the Web to increase sales and marketing results within the Medicare Supplement insurance market.

The first thing we looked at were the Stats. How many seniors are online and would they use a Web site to buy things – and by extension, potentially enroll in Med Supp.

Much helpful research on Web utilization can be found through the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Netting it out, a significant percentage of seniors and their care givers are using the Web to get information and buy senior-related products. As proof of that, we looked at a site for Medicare Part D that uses online enrollment, Community Care Rx. As was shown in another session in the conference, this company ranked 4th in terms of Part D enrollment — with 10 percent online, and who knows how many were handled through the call center on a referral from the Web site.

We also looked at a prototype Med Supp quoting and enrollment site using e-signature and talked about the pro’s and con’s of online quoting and enrollments.

  • Pro’s — quoting accuracy, application completeness, legibility, competitive advantage, more nimble product maintenance, and lower policy administration costs.
  • Con’s — The prototype needs a ‘Plan Selector’ tool to help customers decide which plan best suits their lifestyle. Also, there is the concept of Med Supp brokers lacking the necessary Web savvy to effectively use an online quoting and enrollment system.

We also looked at sample online agent enrollment and online agent portals, both of which we are currently developing for clients at the conference. The main point is that by enrolling agents online, they will get a first-hand look at using e-signature themselves in their appointment process with the company. They will then have an even greater sense of comfort and will see the value-added efficiency of the paperless environment. Using a portal for ongoing servicing of the agent (app-status, commissions, incentive tracking, brochure downloads, leads, etc.) keeps the agent online and coming back for more day-in and day-out.

The feedback from the audience was extremely positive – for a change. The Med Supp community has traditionally been somewhat resistant to doing business online. Good news for everyone – this seems to be changing.

Lastly, back to the market statistics, PEW shows that 70 to 80 percent of baby boomers use the Internet. Thus, the next generation of Med Supp buyers are using the Web on a regular basis. Perhaps the Med Supp insurance community is coming to understand that if they want to serve the baby boomers, they have got to have a Web component – and they need to start working on that now.

The conference was extremely well attended and given high marks, even in spite of the fact that we were the first major conference to be held in New Orleans since ‘The Storm’. Kudos to Jesse Slome and the conference leadership team.


The Medicare Supplemental Insurance Conference held in New Orleans this week — a few days I will not soon forget, both professionally and personally. Starting with the eerily empty airport and continuing on to a very empty Astor Crown Plaza with a trainee checking me in, and all about quite an empty city compared to what I had heard about New Orleans, especially on the heels of Jazz Fest. The city seems a shadow of its former self.

Any normal city has its share of burned out retails shops, but this was different. The magnitude of the situation and the considerable construction on Canal Street… I did not get the chance to tour the Levee-affected areas, but I heard it was quite moving. Bourbon Street seemed quite vacant, hardly anyone in the bars, with no problem getting a seat in the Oyster Bars.

But in the midst of it all, here is the First Lady, Laura Bush, sitting two tables over from me at Galatoire’s (ga-la-twaas), an upscale restaurant, encouraging three other women her age. The incongruity of it all struck me — still trying to process it. (All photos taken without flash in case you wondered.)

I heard that the Med Supp conference was the first large conference in New Orleans since “the storm” as they call it. The Astor Crown was VERY nice, but it was not hard to notice the ravaging it took due to the aftermath of the storm. But I’m glad the conference leadership team decided to keep the conference in New Orleans.

Here’s the thing. As much as I avoid a few of the industries the city is know for, I have a desire to see the city return to its fully-functional state. Universities, colleges, industries, etc. all have significant presences there. And it will always be the center of Jazz in the US if not the world. These seem important items to preserve. But more importantly, if we as a country let New Orleans fade to black or languish, what will that say about American culture and our collective heart?

On the business side of things, it was a great meeting and I hope the start of something special in the Medicare Insurance Industry. As things change over the next few years, it will be important to have a dedicated conference for the free exchange of ideas, best practices, prognostications, etc… Jesse Slome, thanks for putting it on. Leadership Team, thanks a million. BRAVO!!!!

Med Supp marketers: get online. MUST! MUST! MUST! MUST!

Archives to 2005