Under health care exchanges, many employees will be selecting benefits previously decided by an employer — providing a chance for brokers and consultants to show their true value, said a panel of experts at the Workplace Benefits Transitions conference December 5.

Although he anticipates working with the exchanges will be more difficult — on top of expected decreased commissions, Sam Cozzo, director at Aegis Administrative Services, said that if brokers continue to deliver what the client wants, they will be OK. “Anytime there are major changes, there are opportunities,” he said at the show in Chicago, co-sponsored by Employee Benefit Adviser.

The opportunity lies in helping clients make health care decisions, such as where to spend their benefit dollars, which were previously decided by the employer.

“The state exchanges are not going to be ideal decision making tools,” said Ja’Nene Kane, chief operating officer of BenefitsConnect. “The state exchanges will give employees options, but [these] are very difficult decisions to make. Just because [a consumer] can compare three plans does not mean the consumer can make a decision. They will look just at the deductible and not understand what ancillary benefits they need.

“Just because you are offering a shopping cart where employees have freedom of choice does not mean they will have any knowledge,” she added. “Employees for the first time will see a myriad of options, and they will not understand the differences. It will only enhance what we do and require us to really help provide those opportunities.”

Further, a broker can become a trusted contact. While it is still not clear how many of the exchanges, including public or private, will be set up, employees will have a lot of questions about them and every time they contact a state or federal exchange board they are likely to reach someone different. In contrast, a broker can become that one trusted contact answering the phone every single time, said John Connor, founder of Transition Assist, a Boston-based independent Medicare Coordinator/Navigator.

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