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Benefits toolmakers still court agents

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Health insurers don’t seem to have much life force that they can spare to market major medical coverage to insurance agents and brokers, but benefits technology services companies still want to get your attention. 

Aflac and the Colonial Life unit of Unum Group Corp. have been aggressive about trying to persuade producers to sell voluntary disability insurance and other employee-paid products at the worksite.

Some sellers of travel health insurance and traditional group disability insurance are still visible.

But most of the top sponsors at the recent National Association of Health Underwriters annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the upcoming Health Agents for America agent meeting in New Orleans are support services organizations: compliance services companies, payroll services companies and technology companies.

Relate: Health agents work to move beyond plan sales

San Francisco-based EaseCentral is an example of a company that continues to be making a major effort to reach out to producers.

The benefits enrollment systems company sent David Reid, its founder and chief executive officer, to New York City recently to get producer media attention for its subscription-based services.

The company aims to reach brokers who serve small employers with “One Simple Solution for Benefits & HR.” An agency that serves group benefits clients with about 5,000 enrollees can get access to basic services at $1.20 per employee per year, and access to onboarding services, payroll services, Affordable Care Act form services and other services for additional fees.

EaseCentral now serves about 22,000 employers with about 1 million enrollees.

Reid said in an interview in New York City that he wants to give small brokers that serve small employers the kinds of tools that the big brokers can build for themselves, without the limitations that might come with system provided by a specific insurer or other vendor.

“We’re a place where the information can be entered once, and then it can be shared,” Reid said. “Our primary customer is the insurance broker. Our ultimate customer is the consumer.”

With help from a broker equipped with EaseCentral tools, an employer can give a new worker who is signing up for benefits personalized information about the worker’s own share of health plan contributions, and information about the possible effects of choosing a health savings account option, while the working is looking at benefits option menus, Reid said.

The ability to provide the right personalized information at exactly the right time is especially important today, given millennials’ interest in having benefits options, and millennials’ expectation of having instant access to benefits information, Reid said.

Phoenix-based HealthiestYou is another example of a benefits tech company that wants agents and brokers to know its name.

HealthiestYou notes that the calls its service gets tend to be about the same kinds of problems that send workers to emergency rooms for what, to group health plan sponsors and insurers, may seem like relatively minor concerns, such as urinary tract infections, sore throats and pink eye.

Making calls free for the enrollees helps get about 42 percent of the enrollees to use the service, and that may help improve the level of urgent care the enrollees get and reduce unnecessary use of emergency rooms, Scott Sanford, a company co-founder and its chief growth officer, said in a telephone interview.

“It’s kind of like having a doctor in your family,” Sanford said.

The provider directory search tool in the app may help, too, by filling a gap in access to care for the 68 percent of Americans who have no regular primary care provider, Sanford said.

The employers that sponsor the telemedicine plans pay HealthiestYou a monthly fee for each employee enrolled.

HealthiestYou pays commissions to commission-based brokers that set up employer telemedicine employers. The firm can also net commissions out for brokers with fee-based practices.


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