In light of increasing complexity and regulation, employers are requesting more online enrollment options. Brokers are providing the resources, but insurers are not totally there, says John Nelson, of Warner Pacific. In a Q&A at the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers’ Employee Benefits Leadership Forum in Colorado Springs, Colo., Nelson, co-CEO of Warner Pacific — which has more than 35,000 employers insured through its office — explains why he thinks insurers are holding brokers back.
EBA: What role is technology playing at your agency?
Nelson: Technology shows up in the form of online enrollment, and that has accelerated over the years. It is more in demand and easier to accomplish. The forms are more streamlined and standardized. The challenge is on the insurance side in receiving that electronic enrollment. There is a big demand on the broker side and to some degree on the employer side. Certainly, we are providing and building those tools to make it happen.
But, on the receiving side, the insurance side, it is easier said than done for them. Some of them have adopted this. Some of them are on their way but they are not there yet.
EBA: How do insurers get there?
Nelson: We continue to dialogue with them, but these insurers are very large companies with very large IT departments that have a whole bunch of priorities going on at the same time. Encouraging them and working with them to get online enrollment means they have to move some priorities around. As much as a priority we might think that is, they have really important things, including claims to membership participation. It is easier said than done, so we work with them patiently. We’ve seen some significant progress and are confident all carriers will be online shortly with small group.
EBA: Since the ACA, how has your agency changed?
Nelson: It is not as simple as selling health insurance anymore. It used to be that simple. You went out, worked with agents, helped them sell a policy, the insurance company issues the policy and you service it and do the best you can. But since the Affordable Care Act passed, the amount of regulation, the amount of paperwork involved, you almost need an accountant and a lawyer. You certainly need to be prepared to answer questions that you never used to answer at all before.
Human resource resources are more important to our customers than ever before. There is a lot of fear out there, and we have to be in a position to address that fear with solid answers.
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