High price of healthcare will plague brokers anew in 2019

With the future of the Affordable Care Act still unclear, the biggest challenge facing brokers in 2019 will remain the rising cost of healthcare.

Employers are increasingly turning to their advisers to help them control health insurance spend, according to a small survey of more than 100 health insurance brokers from benefits education and consulting firm DirectPath. About 77% of advisers surveyed say the increasing cost of healthcare was their biggest challenge for the new year and 66% say their clients rely on them to contain these costs.

“With healthcare policy in flux — and with demand for price transparency drawing significant attention — employers will undoubtedly look to brokers to help them navigate the shifting healthcare landscape and empower employees to best choose and use their benefits,” says Michael Byers, CEO of DirectPath, in a statement.

Brokers are also seeing high demand for benefits communication, employee engagement and transparency as a way to address the rising cost of healthcare, the survey reports. Because there is such a high demand for these services, DirectPath says, brokers are starting to position themselves as extensions of the HR team, instead of as external salespeople.

“The role of the health insurance broker has changed significantly in the past few years,” Byers says. “Brokers today have to be so much more than benefits salespeople. They are expected to be strategic consultants to their employer clients who require guidance optimizing the ROI of their health care investments. Whereas in the past, broker services like employee engagement and transparency were perceived as cutting-edge, they are now considered tablestakes solutions for brokers who want to compete.”

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The rising cost of healthcare may also be driving innovation in the health insurance industry, the survey found. A majority (77%) of respondents say health costs will be a driver of innovation for advisers, trailed by a demand for price transparency (60%) and broker competition (49%).

But in order to innovate, brokers may also want to focus on training, a recent report from insurance provider MetLife found. According to MetLife, while 84% of brokers believe their companies teach them the skills to succeed at their jobs only 43% say on-the-job training is offered in their office.

With a heavy focus on decreasing health insurance costs, there is still opportunity for advisers to help their clients save money and select the best plans, DirectPath says.

“Whether brokers provide these services directly or provide referrals to outside vendors, they have a tremendous opportunity to deliver value to employers and their employees by helping them curb health care costs,” Byers adds.

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