As we prepare to close the books on 2014, now is the time to start thinking harder about 2015 — and 2016.

Small businesses face a major water shortage in my state, California; the risks and opportunities created by the drop in gas prices; the unpredictability of the American consumer; obstacles to finding, hiring and keeping the workers who can handle these rough waters; and, of course, massive changes in health benefits laws, regulations and overall market conditions.

What can benefits brokers say to your clients about planning in unpredictable times like these?

For five ideas, read on.

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1. Empower employers to let their employees make the choice

One way to increase your clients’ flexibility is to help them keep employees’ health care options open.

Encourage them to use an exchange, voluntary benefits and other tools that can help them present a wide variety of options and give employees the freedom to choose the plans that best fits their needs.

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2. Help your clients control their expenses

Encouraging employers to a defined contribution model — and providing a set amount of cash for health insurance each month, rather than guaranteeing that they will pay a set percentage of the health insurance premiums — can help your clients stay on budget. Your clients will know exactly how much will be spent each month on health care

See also: 5 ideas for the next health reform fight

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3. Help plan participants avoid unforeseen costs

We’ve heard many stories in the past year about people with insurance racking up costs because they didn’t realize their doctor was now out-of-network.

Make sure this doesn’t happen by working with a plan or private exchange that offers wide network access.  I think small employers and their employees still want a broad selection of doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies.

See also: Regulators tiptoe into provider network battle

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4. Meet the tech savvy consumer

With information always at our fingertips, consumers are looking online to influence their purchasing decisions. Technology is impacting all facets of the insurance business, from plan comparisons to quoting and account management.

Make sure you work with an exchange or carrier that offers the technology you need to stay on point.

See also: 4 ways to reach millennials

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5. Educate employers about the need to listen to an expert

With so many options to choose from, making the right choice can seem overwhelming.

Make sure you employer clients know what a broker can do to ensure that they make the best possible decisions both for their businesses and for their employees.

A broker has the professional expertise to help employers understand the ins and outs of the available coverage choices, and how these decisions can affect a business.