Submitted by Health Alliance
As the leaves begin to change and we welcome the chill of autumn that signals the beginning of sweater weather, the health insurance industry gears up for its Annual Enrollment Period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.
Workloads increase, and hours balloon as two important days approach: health plans can start talking about next year’s Medicare Advantage options on Oct. 1, and they can start selling plans on Oct. 15. From the dog days of summer to when the leaves start to turn, Health Alliance Medicare employees’ schedules are full with planning and prep for enrollment.
Although the days get busy and free time is sparse, even at its most hectic times, the staff at Health Alliance Medicare focuses on one thing above all else: the people in the communities it serves.
“I really enjoy having a confidence that someone is taking care of our members,” said Jennifer Marquardt, director of consumer product service at Health Alliance Medicare. “I feel like that’s my role, and I like doing that. I work with a team of people who feel the same way.” And Health Alliance Medicare communications manager Lindsay Hynes agrees.
“Health Alliance really has a culture where helping people comes first,” Hynes said. “That’s exactly what we’re in the business of doing, and that’s what makes us proud.”
Members’ and potential members’ needs are always the top concern at Health Alliance and have been since the beginning. To fully understand how Health Alliance came to be the regional, member-focused health plan with a small-town feel and big-time service it is today, it’s best to understand a bit about its history.
Health Alliance History Lesson
Health Alliance arrived on the scene as CarleCare HMO 36 years ago. Owned by Carle, which got its start as an Urbana-based hospital and physician group in the early 1930s, CarleCare benefited from a brand that was already well-established in Champaign-Urbana and Central Illinois as a whole.
CarleCare sold its first group plan in 1980 and became federally qualified by the Medicare governing body, then called the Health Care Financing Administration and known today as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, five years later.
In 1989, after nearly a decade of bringing healthcare coverage to its members, CarleCare became Health Alliance Medical Plans.
Today, it’s the largest managed care organization in downstate Illinois and has branched out to Iowa and the state of Washington, bringing its down-home feel and personal touch to every market it enters. Even as it grew in membership, Health Alliance stuck to its small-town roots, never compromising its local feel along the way.
The secret ingredient to Health Alliance’s recipe for success is really no secret at all. With its headquarters in the heart of Central Illinois and employees from the towns it serves, Health Alliance is truly part of the community.
Health Alliance boasts a liaison team whose role is to get out in the community and teach people about Medicare and other insurance topics. Along with the liaisons, Health Alliance’s staff features a member services team full of employees with community connections who are around to answer questions and help solve problems.
Marquardt oversees the member services staff and has community ties of her own. The Oakland, IL. native, who now lives in Monticello, IL., has worked at Health Alliance for 15 years. She started as a manager of marketing administration for employer group health plans and made the move to a Medicare role in 2007.
As someone born and raised in Central Illinois, Marquardt said she likes helping people in her community and other counties throughout the Midwest. As part of her role, she also oversees another key element of Health Alliance’s member-first focus, its member advisory board.
“Our advisory board members do a really good job of thinking beyond themselves to how our changes and our plans affect their peers and others within the community,” Marquardt said. “They are great at thinking about needs beyond their own.”
The member advisory board meets four times a year to discuss topics that affect coverage, quality, and more. The current board features 12 members from various towns in the service area. At their meetings, these voluntary board members talk about ways to make healthcare coverage as easy and useful as possible for themselves and their fellow enrollees.
Marquardt said she appreciates the board members’ dedication in their voluntary roles and that she is glad they are willing to be honest even when their opinions disagree with other board members or the things Health Alliance Medicare is currently doing. She welcomes change, especially when it comes from members wanting to help other members.
From top to bottom and across departments, Health Alliance is full of other employees who share Marquardt’s and the board members’ enthusiasm.
“No matter what we’re doing, members’ needs come first,” Hynes said. “Our role as a communications department is to speak to the member, and that’s what we do. For every pamphlet, every brochure, every newsletter, we try to make Medicare a little easier to use and understand. I think that feeling spans other departments as well.”
Hynes is another Central Illinois native, having lived in Decatur, Danville, and Urbana. She has worked at Health Alliance for just under two years but has already made a big impact, moving from her original role as a communications project coordinator to a communications manager in only seven months.
Busy for Good Reason
When schedules start to fill up and deadlines approach, Health Alliance employees focus on the idea that what they are doing is helping people, making the long hours and stressful days a little easier to manage.
“Busy season gets hectic every summer and fall,” Hynes said. “But when you take a step back and realize how much you’re truly impacting people’s lives, both members and prospects, you feel good about what you’re doing. It’s just the motivation we need and makes coming to work really worth it.”
In the end, all of the hard work pays off when members get their renewal materials and potential members find a Medicare Advantage plan that fits their needs.
From the earliest brainstorming stage to when members start to use their coverage, every department at Health Alliance works to ensure members are getting the customer service they deserve.
Some departments hit their busy season during the planning stage of enrollment, while some hit theirs during the enrollment period or at the start of the year. Regardless of when they’re busy, the staff members strive to keep a teamwork mentality and help each other out when they can.
“It really is all about the members and what’s best for them,” Hynes said. “When everyone has that mentality and is working together as a team, something really special happens. Forget the long hours, busy schedules, and wall-to-wall meetings. What we have is a team that wants to make a difference in our community and surrounding area. That is exactly what matters most.”
For more information about how Health Alliance can help you, visit HealthAllianceMedicare.org or call toll-free 1-888-382-9771. Hours are 8am - 8pm from October 1 to February 1, and 8am to 8pm on weekdays the rest of year.
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