A few days ago, we got a bright orange and red envelope in the mail. It was addressed to the previous owner of our home – or current resident. Since this is usually an indication of snail mail spam, I almost tossed it. But then I saw the notice across the front of the envelope: “Attention Rural Co-operative Members. You may now qualify for a Hospitalization Policy that helps pay outpatient expenses.” My curiosity was piqued, given the health insurance co-op ideas that have been tossed around this summer, and particularly in the last few weeks.When I opened the envelope, I found a questionnaire. It started off like this: “We are currently gathering information to verify interest in a Hospitalization and Surgical Insurance Plan that can also help provide optional coverage for Outpatient Expenses such as Preventive Care, Doctor Office Calls, Outpatient Hospital Services, X-Rays, EKGs and Chiropractor Office Calls. To this end we would appreciate your cooperation in filling out the short questionnaire below.”
– Are you concerned about the rising cost of doctor and hospital services? (yes or no)
– Are you currently covered under a medical insurance plan? (yes or no)
– In terms of hospital and medical coverage, how would you rate your policy? (good, moderate, poor)
– Does your present policy help pay for outpatient expenses such as doctor office calls, X-Rays, EKGs, Chiropractor Office Calls, Outpatient Hospital Services, and Preventive Care? (yes or no)
– If the cost were reasonable would you be interested in a hospitalization and surgical insurance plan that can also provide optional outpatient coverage that is now available to small business owners, individuals and retirees, as well as rural co-operative members? (very interested, interested, somewhat interested)
Below that is a place for the respondant to fill in a name, address and phone number. And at the bottom of the page is a disclaimer: “This insurance plan is independent of and not affiliated, associated or endorsed by any national electric assocation or any local Farmers, Electric, Telephone or other rural co-operative. This insurance plan is individually underwritten by Reserve National Insurance Company. A Company agent may contact you with details about benefits, costs, limitations, exclusions and renewability.”
Ok, now it makes sense. It’s a direct mail marketing campaign for Reserve National Insurance Company. A quick search on Google turns up a website for the company. It’s a pretty standard insurance company website, except that the products tab only provides a brief overview of the plans available, with no links to plan details. So I wasn’t able to get a good idea of what sort of coverage the policies actually offer. I did see that the company is rated A- by A.M. Best, and has been in business for more than 50 years. I was also able to see lots of details about the agents and area managers (including a local one in Colorado) on the company website.
I have no problem with direct mail marketing, or with marketing in general. I know that companies have to advertise and attract clients in order to stay in business. But I did find the particular style of this marketing campaign to be a bit disingenuous. Why is there a reference to co-ops on the front of the envelope? Given the disclaimer at the bottom of the letter, I’m a bit confused as to why co-ops were even mentioned at all. Is it because health insurance co-ops have been in the news lately? Is it because co-ops give people a feeling that they’re getting a good deal? Who knows.
Basically, the questionnaire is just a lead generating mechanism. That is clearly stated at the bottom of the letter, when it says that “a company agent may contact you“. Again, I have no problem with marketing, but I much prefer lead generating campaigns that are clear in their intent.