One of the most famous Yogi Berra-isms is: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Benefit advisers are now at or near a fork in the road, and in fact have multiple paths to choose from in order to help their businesses survive and thrive. Here are a few that arise in our conversations with thought leaders in the profession (not in order of recommendation).
Path One - If you have historically done well in health care, stick with it and embrace new opportunities. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act clearly puts broker commissions livelihoods in the crosshairs. However, many professionals see an opportunity to move into more consultative roles that will reward them in different ways. Some, for example, are closely following the development of state-run insurance purchasing exchanges and the potential to become navigators in the new system. These advisers are banking on their ability to adjust to new Rules of the Game once stabilized.
Path Two - If you have historically done well in health care, stick with it, but try to influence the Rules of the Game. Other advisers believe PPACA is so devastating to them, and their clients, that repeal or major modification is the only way to preserve the employer-based system. They support legislative efforts to roll back the law, and believe the Supreme Court should rule PPACA unconstitutional when the issue reaches its review in 2012.
Path Three - Move on to new markets. The window of opportunity in voluntary benefit sales is still open to new entrants, with some analysts predicting double-digit market growth in 2012. Employees' desire for more choice and flexibility will fuel wider sponsorship and deeper account penetration next year, analysts predict.
Most of these approaches involve a willingness to transition your business to a new strategic direction. There is, however, another path I hesitate to even mention: Duck, cover and stick with the way you've always done things. Staying where you are could work out, but probably won't. Hope is not a viable strategy, and wishing is not a good tactic.
The secret to never making a bad decision is forging the attitude that positive things await you down whichever path you choose to take - right now, based on the information you have at hand. More forks in the road will await you, but you will at least be moving forward.
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