According to a 2016 survey of employee benefit trends by the Healthcare Trends Institute, employers are increasingly looking to insurance brokers to help them evaluate new opportunities in benefits offerings. Forty percent of employers said they will depend on insurance brokers to learn about new health benefit models, and nearly 40 percent said they currently rely on brokers to learn about health benefit designs and platforms.
So what does it take to be the type of broker employers need? A lot more than negotiating rates for carrier offerings. That said, increased dependence from employers provides more opportunities for brokers to excel as partners, advisers, and strategists than ever before—and more opportunities for commission.
With these roles continuing to expand, insurance brokers must understand what employers need from them, why, and how they can provide those services. What follows is a list of the different broker archetypes employers are looking for to help them navigate the changing benefits landscape.
ACA regulatory master
Companies are scrambling to become ACA compliant when reporting the insurance coverage they provide to both their employees and the IRS. However, these rules can be complicated. A 2015 ADP survey found more than 50 percent of employers didn’t feel prepared for the ACA, and nearly three in four (70 percent) of the midsized and large employers surveyed currently handle ACA compliance tasks internally. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for brokers to stay up-to-date on changes in ACA regulations in order to provide the guidance and information employers need.
Certification courses offered by such associations as NAHU, AHIP, and Bloomberg BNA, along with daily industry newsletters, can help ensure brokers are up-to-speed with regulation facts and information.
Consumerism pro (who’s pro-consumerism)
Health care consumerism is here to stay,and today’s broker doesn’t just talk the talk, they also walk the walk. With greater exposure to increasing health care costs, consumers are starting to recognize the powerful role they play in the health care system and are learning to navigate it to meet their needs.
These increased consumer expectations are becoming more and more apparent. Research from my organization, Liazon, found that 96 percent of consumers would rather choose their own benefits than have their employer choose for them. Consumers want to take a more active role in their decisions, and just like they call the shots in retail, they are expecting to have a voice in their health care and benefits decisions as well.
The brokers who are able to become experts in balancing both employee and employer needs will be able to provide the most exceptional experiences to the largest amount of clients.
Ancillary benefits, such as telemedicine, pet insurance, wellness programs, critical illness insurance and hospital indemnity, have become increasingly popular in the workplace. Employers are more actively looking to offer new products to their employees; according to a report from LIMRA International, 71 percent of employers believe that voluntary benefits improve worker morale and satisfaction. As these benefits continue to become more important to employees, employers will need advice on these plans in addition to consulting on medical insurance. As health care consumerism continues to support the benefits of increased employee choice, this interest is only expected to grow. And adding new products to the mix means adding more commissions for brokers.
The only constant in the benefits environment lately is change. With new regulations, exchange models, programs, and incentives, employers need to not only find the right offerings for their employees, but they also need to effectively communicate the new benefits strategy and changes to get employees on board.
As a result, employers will be looking to their brokers more to help navigate the shifts that will accompany these changes and, when applicable, to help implement a multi-touchpoint approach — including digital, mobile, print and onsite trainings — for communicating with and reaching employees.
With all the changes noted above — including complex ACA requirements, more diverse offerings for products and solutions, and greater pressures from the consumerism movement — the same old same old in benefits no longer suffices. Increasingly, brokers will need to advise clients on new options for providing the best benefits that meet their employees’ needs. Becoming more knowledgeable of these changes will ensure that employers continue to trust you, value the advice you provide, and maintain a successful relationship with you for the long run.