During a recent speaking engagement, I was asked: "How do I become an expert on health care reform?" When asked this question before (as I have been, many times), I used to provide an overview or additional resources. Now, I simply say, "You don't need to be an expert."

During the shocked silence that follows, I explain that if you're not already an expert on the Affordable Care Act you're probably too far behind the eight ball to prepare by traditional methods. With this in mind, the following are the top three reasons why you don't need to worry about not being an ACA expert - and how to catch up with those that already are.

 

1) It's too late

The ACA became law more than 1,252 days ago. Every day since, I have received an email or phone call from an individual claiming to have "the answer to health care reform." Carriers, benefit brokers, and health insurance consultants are now self-purported experts on it. Even CPAs and lawyers are leading education sessions and providing consulting services.

The market for ACA experts is saturated, and has been for quite some time. If you expect to cut through the static that your competition has created, then you should be prepared for an uphill battle.

Solution: Partner, partner, partner. I do the same thing now as I did in school: Find the mathlete in class and propose a trade; you help me with geometry and I'll help you with English literature. Find the highest profile ACA expert whose clientele doesn't overlap yours and propose a mutually beneficial relationship.

It begs to reason that the local law firm on the ACA discussion panel isn't trying to move into the benefits business, but instead sees the ACA as a great platform to promote their business. This tactic will help move you to the front of the class quickly and raise the presence of your agency.

 

2) See the forest for the trees

A sweeping health care act is signed by a Democratic president with the intent to improve health care efficiency and to simplify procedures in health care insurance. Everyone scrambles to find clarification during the implementation. A few years go by, and confusion turns to understanding, which in turn becomes routine knowledge. Yes, I am talking about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

The ACA is HIPAA for this decade. Look for the pattern and the big picture will be revealed. The ACA may be what is getting all the attention now, but it probably won't have long-term value for your agency in terms of bringing in new clients during the years to come. Would you say that your knowledge of HIPAA helps you bring in new business? Chances are it does not differentiate you from your competitor. That's because the prospect already has someone on staff who's supposed to be an expert on HIPAA (and now the ACA).

Solution: Don't lose sight of the big picture. Eventually, the implementation of ACA procedures will be routine, and clients will be less reliant on your agency for help. This does not mean you should not be helpful in the present. You don't have to be an expert to be helpful. Source quality content and share it as often as possible.

 

3) It's not your main business

There seem to be far more agencies that think they are health insurance consultants since the ACA was established than there were prior. Maybe that's because some firms decided to make a strategic change in business focus. Maybe, but chances are, many of these agencies think that saying they offer health insurance consulting services is a good way to bring in business. There is no problem with that logic if you actually are a health insurance consultant. However, if you primarily sold voluntary benefits before, then it is misguided.

Solution: If your intent is to drive business to your agency, then stop using tactics that put you against established competition like pure health insurance consultants. Instead, compete with government exchanges that are in their infancy and don't have as much momentum.

Turn your agency's website into a virtual insurance office. The masses that are seeking health insurance on the open market for the first time are going to be shopping online anyway; they might as well do it on your website. Your advantage over the government is the ability to sell more than just health insurance to the consumer.

There is no doubt that the ACA has changed how our industry operates. What won't change is your role as an insurance professional in a relationship-driven industry: Connecting people with products and services that increase their financial security. That doesn't require you to be an ACA expert, just a helpful local agent.

Troutman is marketing manager for Astonish, a digital marketing platform for insurance agents. Connect with him at ctroutman@astonish.com.

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