Health insurance brokers exist in an industry under as much pressure as any evolving species and failure to adapt risks perishing. This is an affirmation of Darwin’s law of evolution that through the struggle for existence, favorable adaptions prevail and unfavorable ones perish.
Changes caused by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have altered the selling and enrollment cycle of the health insurance industry. Formerly, this was a year round business, but it has become divided into two distinct seasons and like seasonally dependent reproductive animals. Success at expanding one’s business is dependent upon adapting to this change.
In one “season”, brokers are tasked with selling or renewing and enrolling Medicare recipients, individuals wanting to be covered by an exchange and many small groups all renewing at the same time — in the fourth quarter. For the remainder of the year, brokers often have excess employees who were overworked in the fourth quarter and wondering what to do the rest of the year.
One solution is to simply not gear up with extra fourth-quarter help and let them go as that season closes. It will simply put more pressure on the operation each fall to once again hire new staffers who need to be trained all over again. Even when the fourth quarter is survived, it still leaves open the question of how to be productive the rest of the year. Like a Darwinian pressured species, brokers need to adapt or perish.
Planning ahead and figuring out new ways of handling things starts by appraising how to handle the excess workload in the fourth quarter. Two adaptions need to be considered even if a broker has been reluctant in the past — involving a general agent and changing over to electronic enrollment systems. Choosing to outsource some or much of their tasks to general agency personnel creates a situation for brokers where they may not have to hire and train added personnel themselves. Oftentimes, a general agency can do this for them.
While there is no authoritative study about what is happening inside a carrier’s broker support and underwriting department during the fourth quarter, there is a great amount of anecdotal evidence of brokers or their staff spending large amounts of time and having huge delays on the phone to while trying to solve problems that could have been outsourced to a competent general agency.
A new tool evolving as an improvement to existing systems are the electronic web-based enrollment systems. Brokers, their staff and clients need to be using quieter times of the year to learn how to proficiently operate them.