The initial target market is the Atlanta metro and north Georgia market. The agreement with Blair Mill encompasses the following zip codes:
All three digits beginning with [Proprietary and confidential information removed].
This includes all of metro Atlanta and surrounding counties in north Georgia. At present Southeast Health Plans holds the only strategic marketing alliance with Blair Mill in the entire southeastern United States. Both sides recognize and desire an expanded agreement after phase one goals and objectives are attained.
The critical data to establish potential customer base and market share is to sort employers within the region by number of employees, regardless of whether they are currently with an HMO, an outside insurance carrier, are self-insured, or have no insurance. All are potential clients of Southeast Health Plans. The curve to attainment of critical mass is one of education, media, contact, and sales closure.
The market segment data is presented in the next section.
Within the targeted ZIP codes defined by the agreement with Blair Mill, the management of Southeast Health Plans has identified 1,801 employers with 50 to 500 employees. Of these, 1,289 are known to have an identifiable insurance carrier, 446 are known to be self-insured, and 66 are known to have no insurance.
Southeast has a clearly defined and identifiable market niche that enables highly targeted and efficient marketing of its services.
Together the national insurance carriers, HMOs, and PPOs account for 72% of the current market for employer-based health plan services. The majority of HMOs and PPOs have their own marketing and sales programs which include company employed sales forces. National insurance companies may have company sales people or may utilize independent insurance agents. Both have strong media programs.
Neither, however, provide the mix of services that Southeast Health Plans can provide. Nor can they provide the quality/cost ratio or the ancillary consultative and custom services of Southeast combined with Blair Mill. Thus, Southeast feels that this entire employer universe of 1,801 companies is vulnerable to penetration.
Buying patterns vary by the size of the employer and according to his internal organization.
The company with 50 to 100 employers may have health care handled by the owner or a key executive. Often it is the responsibility of the Personnel Administrator as an individual (if that function is internal to the company). Also, Personnel Administration may be outsourced, but benefits may not. Sometimes an independent benefits brokerage firm handles all recommendations.
Larger companies from 200 to 500 employees may have Personnel Departments of several people. They might also employ a broker or a consultant.
Thus, it is imperative that Southeast have flexible programs and sales and marketing efforts that are targeted to a diverse set of potential buying patterns.
It is worthy to note that customer buying patterns for health plan coverage tend to revolve around annual renewal dates. That's when competition intensifies from traditional providers. Southeast will have an extremely significant marketing advantage since an employer may retain Southeast for its proprietary service mix at any time. Southeast can initiate service for a client by helping him analyze and administer his current plan. Often, such an engagement will progress to full service and to administration of self-insurance.
Insurance carriers provide economic protection only. Such protection is at a high cost. Deductibles are increasing and the employer's ability to handle the cost burden of medical insurance coverage is diminishing. Compromises must be made in the extent of coverage, the size of the deductible, the medical services included, or often the employee is required to cover an ever-increasing percentage of the cost of his own plan as a payroll deduction. These are all unattractive options both for the employer and the individual client. The spiraling cost of health care is the culprit.
HMOs have gained substantial and significant market share over the past two decades. Their cumulative share of covered insured employees now exceeds the national commercial insurance carriers by a wide margin. However, these plans have been ruled primarily by cost containment strictures. Freedom of choice is severely limited - there is a perception that the quality of care is at an all-time low. Liability issues are beginning to surface based on compromised or neglected care due to cost parameters. Many service costs are not adequately covered under these plans and the provider base of physicians are extremely dissatisfied with compensation allowances. Many physicians complain that the freedom of decision is diminishing constantly from time and cost constraints that are imposed upon them. The ultimate client, the individual patient, is equally dissatisfied. Thus, the employer becomes dissatisfied as well.
The market niche for the quality TPA is ripe for picking. However, services must be of high quality. Many small TPAs are promising high levels of service but often don't deliver as promised because of the expense of building the internal resources required to compete effectively. Southeast Health Plans, by virtue of its alliance with Blair Mill Administrators, already has the necessary resources in place.
HMOs and Managed Care Companies are experienced and effective direct marketers. They employ media marketing and company sales forces to good effect. The primary problem they face is increasing dissatisfaction with their product. They will not be able to provide the multi-regional, customizable services that an increasing number of employers will demand. In addition, self-insurance is contrary to the buy-and-resell philosophy of these providers.
Many national insurance companies market through company sales forces and independent brokers and agents. Herein lies a potential barrier to entry into the small company market for an emerging TPA. Often the company has a pre-existing relationship with an insurance agent that may encompass a broader range of insurance services than health care. The company is, in fact, buying a "package" of varied insurance coverages that are necessary to business operation and also happen to include health care coverage. The task here is one of general education about the potential of self-insurance programs. If the insurance agent doesn't provide this alternative he stands to eventually lose the health insurance coverage. But his current "franchise" with his client can be a barrier.
It is the intention of Southeast Health Plans both to market directly and to work through independent agents to reach their existing clients. A competitive agent compensation program is in place to accomplish this objective. It is the intention of the company to both work with independent agents who recognize the mutual value of co-operation or to sell in head-to-head competition with those who don't.
Ultimately, product, service, and price will prevail. All sales forecasts of the company recognize the time line of market penetration, and have realistic, if not conservative, market share goals.