If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “This is a great product. If any of my clients ask about it, I’ll be sure to recommend you.” For many brokers, this is a standard response when they learn about a new solution or a new strategy, which can be frustrating for a carrier rep because it’s clear from the beginning that only a small fraction of the broker’s clients will ever hear about his or her company.
You see, most people don’t understand insurance, so they’re probably not going to ask about a solution they don’t even know exists. This is especially true when the product is new, innovative, or one-of-a-kind, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are a lot of solutions that fit this description.
Employers Have Problems
As we all know, the health reform law changed all the rules and created a number of new challenges for employers. They now have to:
- Determine how many “full-time equivalent” employees their company has
- Offer coverage to anyone working 30+ hours per week if they’re an “applicable large employer”
- Make sure that coverage meets certain minimum requirements
- Report to the IRS what they do on an annual basis
This is on top of the fact that cost-sharing is increasing, provider networks are shrinking, and premiums are skyrocketing, all of which make it difficult for employers to offer benefits that their employees will actually appreciate.
Here is a previous article on why employers offer benefits.
Carriers Have Answers
The good news is the industry has responded with innovative new solutions to help employers deal with these issues. The bad news is these solutions require a bit of salesmanship on the broker’s part; it’s the consulting work that comes out of a great ‘discovery stage’ of question-asking. Agents can’t simply sit around and wait for their clients to ask for a particular solution, they have to go out and tell people about it.
Here are some tips on how to uncover client problems.
Just think about some of the strategies we regularly recommend these days that would have seemed crazy just a few short years ago. Now think how absurd it would have been to expect our clients to ask about those solutions when they were first available:
- “Wow! You allow employers to self-insure down to 10 lives? That’s great. If any of my small group clients ask about a self-insured solution, I’ll be sure to tell them about you.”
- “You have a minimum essential coverage plan that only covers preventive care, generic drugs, and three doctor visits per year, costs just $50 per month, and will help my clients avoid the employer mandate penalty? Wonderful! If any of my clients ask, I’ll certainly recommend you.”
- “You give employees and their family members the ability to email their medical questions to a specialist, get a response within 24 hours, and ask follow-up questions as needed, saving them time and an unnecessary trip to the doctor when they sometimes have to wait weeks for an in-person visit? That’s a great benefit! If any of my clients ask for this service, I’ll definitely let them know.”
They have to be told
You get the point. Our clients don’t know what they don’t know, and if you don’t tell them, one of two things will happen:
- Nobody will tell them, so they’ll go without a needed solution.
- One of your competitors will tell them, and you could lose the group.
Neither of these is a good outcome. On the flip side, there are some great reasons for brokers to be open minded, learn about all of the innovative new solutions in the marketplace, and actually recommend those solutions to their clients.
Your clients need help
The number one reason, of course, for brokers to seek out and actually recommend some of these innovative new solutions is because their clients need help. They struggle to offer a budget-friendly benefits package that will be valuable to their employees. Today’s plans have lots of holes in them, and they need something to plug those holes. Here are a few ideas:
- As deductibles and out-of-pockets go up, worksite products like accident and critical illness plans can help reduce the employees’ exposure, and they can be offered on a voluntary basis.
- As up-front copays disappear and networks continue to get smaller, telehealth programs allow employees to call a doctor (sometimes at no cost) and get a prescription if needed, saving both time and money.
- As more and more employers decide to self-insure, medical tourism (both international and in-country) allows them to save thousands of dollars on surgeries and other high-ticket claims.
For employers who are desperate for answers, out-of-the box solutions like these can be a lifesaver.
Separate yourself from the competition
As an added bonus, most of your competitors aren’t talking about these new and innovative solutions on a regular basis, which gives you a chance to win some business. If an employer is searching for answers and the broker is recommending the same old strategies he always has—shopping the market, finding similar plans, tweaking the deductible and out-of-pocket limit, bumping up the copays a few bucks, and passing on more of the cost to the employees—your proposal can be a breath of fresh air and can immediately cast doubt on the job the incumbent is doing. It’s a great way to pick up AORs.
Offer a package deal
One final point: when you discuss some of today’s new strategies with your clients, help them understand how all of the pieces fit together. Let them know that in the past, it was possible to purchase a comprehensive health insurance plan with low up-front copayments, a reasonable deductible and out-of-pocket limit, a broad provider network, and a fair premium. That’s no longer the case.
These Cadillac plans, as the government would call them, either no longer exist or are cost prohibitive.
What you need to tell your clients is that they can still offer a great health benefits package to their employees, but you’re going to piece together several different products from different vendors to help them do that: a higher deductible on their health plan will lower the monthly premium while supplemental insurance will help offset that deductible; dropping the doctor copays will lower the rate $40 per month while a $10 telehealth and doctors online bundle will help restore access to providers; a smaller provider network will help reduce the monthly cost while an advocacy service can help employees negotiate the expected out-of-network claims. Your clients need to understand that the solutions you’re recommending work together with the health plan to give the employees a great benefits package.
Your clients aren’t going to ask
This is an exciting time in the employee benefits industry. Employers have a lot of challenges, which means that they’re willing to listen to anyone who might be able to help. This creates a huge opportunity for brokers who have done their homework and learned about some of the new and innovative solutions that are out there. But remember, you actually have to go out and tell people about those solutions—they’re not going to ask.