Finding opportunities for benefit advisers post-ACA

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Health care reform prompted many health insurance agents to leave the industry, but Rodger Bayne says opportunities exist for those brokers that have persevered. How employers design benefit packages may be changing, but there’s still a role for advisers who embrace it, he says.

The uncertainty and complexity of the Affordable Care Act has compelled thousands of insurance agents to bail out of the industry either through mergers, redirection of their sales efforts or simply selling their shop, Bayne, president of Benefit Indemnity Corporation, told attendees of EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance Tuesday. Yet, many of the same sales rules apply and advisers willing to be market leaders and differentiators can thrive.

“Employers still want the same two things out of their benefit plans — to keep their employees happy and to do it for less. The rest is the minutiae that we, as advisers, have to understand,” he said.

“We are all in a very difficult time,” he said. The ACA has artificially lowered rates for some while raising the rates for others. Yet, he says, “We have to find out how to offer benefits in this environment.”

For many advisers, he says, the new benefits landscape has shifted their focus away from traditional techniques for market differentiation such as administration ease, consolidated billing, or COBRA support, to new tools and offerings.

Private healthcare exchanges, for example, he says are gaining in popularity as a tool to “deliver health insurance into the hands of as many consumers as we can.”

Hand in glove approach

What the benefits industry is seeing, especially, from market innovators is more “hand in glove products,” Bayne said.

“We’re seeing a lot of medical and voluntary plans working more closely together to provide plans that don’t duplicate and offer the benefits employers intend to provide,” he said.

“Today’s market demands more – price, convenience, effectiveness, results, satisfaction, and of course, immediate gratification."

Eliminating duplication in benefit offerings, as well as benefit administration should be a goal for advisers hoping to help cut their clients’ costs and benefits overhead.

“Let’s start working towards full integration of medical, life, dental, vision, wellness, worksite…a single enrollment, one single bill, one single process that runs through the entire spectrum of benefits,” he said.

“Today’s market demands more – price, convenience, effectiveness, results, satisfaction, and of course, immediate gratification,” he said.

Wellness, Bayne said, is also an area of new focus as a cost-cutting strategy, as well as risk and data analysis.

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