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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

4 ways to dazzle bigger employer groups

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Today’s brokers are at a crossroads. The proliferation of both public and private exchanges, as well as availability of sophisticated decision support tools and a plethora of information available online, all seemingly diminish the importance of brokers.

But in practice, individuals and employers find themselves increasingly in need of guidance from health insurance experts to ensure that they are compliant with rapidly evolving health reform and tax regulations and that they understand their options.

These new demands mean that the era of traditional broker services is over; brokers must push their counsel beyond old boundaries to offer advice across new disciplines. In light of that reality, a new form of broker is emerging – one dedicated to strategic partnerships with businesses that touch on legal, technology, employee wellness and other issues.

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Offering more sophisticated services means brokers will need to invest in new skill sets and expand their teams to include underwriters and other subject matter experts, as well as invest in infrastructure. This increased overhead makes it all but imperative to grow their business and increase the size of the employer groups they serve.

Regardless of the size of the employer groups they work with, there are certain steps that all brokers should consider as they seek to serve larger employer groups with more sophisticated needs:  

  1. Consider private exchanges. Aligning with strategic insurers and leveraging their exchanges can help brokers speed up and streamline complex processes, reducing administrative burdens and allowing them to focus energy on other areas, such as compliance or other specialized services, which cannot be managed by a technology solution. Furthermore, multi-carrier exchanges represent new competition, and many brokers would be well-served to tighten alignment with their key insurers and take advantage of these platforms.
  2. Support ancillary offerings. Beyond standard medical offerings, a bevy of voluntary products are now easily available through private exchanges and fit nicely with defined contribution models as well as traditional defined benefit approaches. These voluntary offerings help create a robust benefits package at little to no cost to the employer.
  3. Get smart on the available technology. Not only do brokers have to understand all the new cutting-edge technology as it relates to human resource information systems, benefits administration and exchanges, but they also have to fully understand insurance carrier systems that weren’t necessarily designed with the needs of the broker in mind. Integrating new technology with carriers’ legacy systems can be challenging. Brokers should engage with carriers to ensure that internal and external systems are integrated in a way that creates a positive user experience for all stakeholders.
  4. Develop deep expertise. Brokers servicing large groups will specialize and be asked to play a more strategic role, consulting on issues ranging from contracting with hospitals for Accountable Care Organizations and benchmarking benefits both nationally and internationally, to providing guidance on how to create a productive workforce. They will also create points of differentiation by extending their counsel to include predictive modeling around risk and costs, and lend their expertise on exchange infrastructure and user navigation. This may mean providing specialized services around compliance and health care or providing consulting services around the types of technologies and exchanges these businesses should be integrating with their current offerings.

Successful brokers are seizing opportunities created by health reform to become even more valuable, taking on the role of HR/benefits consultants, business strategy partners and trusted advisors on all things insurance-related. The new type of insurance broker that embraces this disruption will have even deeper ties to clients by providing advisory and consultative services not easily found elsewhere – and will be well-positioned to serve larger employer groups through this period of rapid industry change.  

See also: Health insurers choose their pipes