October. What an exercise in frustration. And I'm not talking about the government shutdown - although coverage of that debacle did provide a timely distraction.

When it comes to the launch of the Affordable Care Act's keystone provision of state health insurance exchanges, I would say what a ride, but really it was more like a nightmare trip to Disney World: We were promised wonders, but spent most of the time waiting in line, only to find once we finally got through the turnstiles that the fancy new attraction was out of order.

In our reporting on the launch of the ACA's state- and federally-run exchanges, the EBA team reached out to dozens of advisers across the country - none of whom, as of press time almost three weeks in, were able to enroll a single client in any of them.

Sounds like a mighty good opportunity to give up and commence Obamacare bashing. But on the contrary, those same advisers we spoke with are pushing forward with an admirable sense of determination to keep their clients informed of all of their health insurance options, including what the ACA has to (eventually) offer.

Not to mention keep their clients, period. For example, Kelly Fristoe, owner of Financial Partners in Wichita Falls, Texas, was up at the stroke of midnight Oct. 1 attempting to log into his state's exchange system to find rate information for his small-group clients who are looking to send employees to the individual market instead.

"We're going to be the agent that's going to try to salvage that business instead of it going to one of our competitors," says Fristoe.

Read about his continued efforts and the rest of our exchanges coverage, "Month 1: Glitch is the word," on p. 60. Then, stay tuned for a truly inspiring cover story about one adviser who is taking the relationship between brokers, consumer-driven health care and the ACA to new heights coming early in the New Year.

Meanwhile, this month we have the honor of featuring David C. Smith as EBA's Health Plan Adviser of the Year. One of the most knowledgeable and in-tune advisers I have spoken with in my nearly five years at EBA, Smith offers pearls of wisdom ("Mr. Know-it-all," p.22) on what it means to be a successful benefits consultant in today's turbulent environment.

Employers don't want a broker "to slap you on the back and say, 'Hey, here's your renewal. It was 15%, but I got it down to 12%," says Smith. "Instead, what they want is somebody who's actually going to actively look at their benefits and say, from the risk management side, how can we keep costs down?"

It means letting go of the spreadsheet mentality once and for all.

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