The BCMA mail I am receiving increasingly says things like “important” or “deadline approaching,” or “act now.” Please, I accept that we have some corporate affiliates (e.g., critical illness insurance), but I do not consider this as urgent mail from my medical association. Is this the sign of more junk mail to come?
The BCMA logo is on the envelope and, in my opinion, being used for sensationalistic corporate advertising, and I could use less junk mail.
Is this mail from you or the insurance company?
We are a professional association and I believe our mail should reflect that.
—Darren Jakubec, MD
Rather than publishing our letter responding to Dr Jakubec’s specific concerns, it may be more informative to provide a more general discussion of the issues he raises. Accordingly, I have provided answers to some of the commonly asked questions on this topic.
Q: Does the BCMA condone mass mailings by insurers to our members?
A: The BCMA Insurance Committee selects insurers to underwrite the programs offered to members based on their quality, competitiveness, and qualifications to assist us in communicating the benefits to members. Sun Life Financial, which underwrites many of the member insurance programs, has the resources and experience to fulfill this role.
In most cases BCMA mails insurance offerings to eligible members. For the recent Member Life and Critical Illness campaign, Sun Life handled the distribution of the information packages as part of a wider campaign they ran for the BCMA and several of their other association clients. By allowing Sun Life to distribute the information, BCMA saved the associated printing and mailing costs. Sun Life was required to sign a confidentiality agreement restricting the use of the address data we provided for this purpose only, on a one-time basis, and requiring them to destroy the data following the mail-out.
Q: Why is it necessary to inform members about the BCMA insurance programs through marketing campaigns?
A: As a non-profit association, BCMA does not have an advertising budget per se and must use the most cost-effective means at our disposal to let members know about new benefits and insurance offers. To reach the maximum number possible with the resources available to us, mail campaigns are our primary communication tool. When we began designing these campaigns with the assistance of Sun Life we had reservations about their “marketing” appearance. However, they have proven to be very successful in reaching members and this has convinced us that there is merit in this approach.
Q: Is it really necessary to send “urgent” reminders about approaching deadlines? Physicians have more urgent issues to deal with.
A: When a special offer is made, the insurer’s underwriting requirements are typically more liberal than they would be under the usual guidelines and, as a result, the insurer limits the application period for that particular offering. We know how busy physicians are and how easy it is to delay completing an application form until it is too late. Despite our best efforts in reminding members to take action, we have had calls after the close of a campaign from some who had intended to apply for coverage and were disappointed because they had missed the deadline. It may not seem that urgent or important at the time, but it is always preferable to take care of insurance needs before you have a condition that may limit or prevent you from qualifying for a benefit.
—Sandie Braid, CEBS
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