Across the country, many in the healthcare marketplace — from doctors and hospitals to employers and benefits consultants — are trying to figure out where they fit into President Obama’s brave new healthcare world.
Adjusting to the law has been particularly difficult for insurance brokers.
They’re feeling the sting of smaller commissions thanks to new federal rules limiting how much insurers can spend on administration. Aetna, for instance, announced in December 2010 that it would cut agents’ commissions by 50 percent, which would apply to agents’ business nationwide.
With their incomes plummeting, will insurance agents go the way of the travel agent? Not necessarily. In fact, brokers can use health reform to their advantage if they marshal recent developments in technology to reinvent themselves as trusted — and money-saving — advisers for their clients.
As the primary source of coverage for most Americans, employers are desperate to rein in runaway healthcare costs, which have risen at triple the rate of wages. In just ten years, employers will spend an average of $28,530 on health insurance costs per employee — 166 percent more than they do today.
Many employers are just eating the yearly increase in the cost of benefits.
Others are being forced to shift costs to their employees or do away with certain benefits. Neither strategy is sustainable in the long term.
Pre-health reform, rising health costs weren’t always bad for brokers. After all, a more expensive policy translated into a higher commission.
But those days are over. Brokers will have to replace their lost commission income somehow. By providing expert counsel to their clients on how they can trim their health expenses — and then implementing that advice — brokers could shore up their bottom lines.
Advances in health information technology offer a tremendous opportunity to do just that.
At present, our fragmented and uncoordinated healthcare system delivers quality care but at extremely high cost. Better information systems could change that.
Today, there’s more data than ever on how patients consume health care.