I would title the May issue, "Get ready to change." Change your compensation, change your market focus, and change how you help your clients.
Assume that group medical is going away as we know it - especially if you are in Vermont (State of shock). I am not surprised Vermont is moving toward single payer, just surprised that more states haven't done so too. I'm disappointed at the slip-shod way their bill was created and passed by the House - "let's pass it and then figure out how to make it happen." Geez. But I'm encouraged at the speed that employers joined together to fight the issue.
We have to be prepared for the exit of health insurance companies as we know them, and learn all of the ancillary issues employers will encounter in the "brave new world" of the future. If you haven't done so already, start thinking about your consulting fee structure and how you will create solutions for consulting needs that your clients will have. Remember, our expertise will still be needed for large employer plan design and small employer compliance.
Take a hard look at voluntary
Learn them; find ways to use all the benefits of them, including the enrollment staff. On page 28 there was a great column from Nelson Griswold on how to use voluntary benefits well (Make voluntary your secret weapon). Face-to-face enrollments are a great way to help with other communications. I agree that the benefit counselors can teach employees about non-voluntary plan issues like deductibles - just be sure to have great enroller training in place and even work up a script if necessary. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If you're going to use voluntary benefits to address an increased medical deductible, be sure you've read the contracts and everything fits. I took over a case several years ago where this strategy had backfired on the client because the prior agent didn't do his homework. Now, no matter how good it looks on paper, this client will not touch that solution again.
The cover story (All you have to do is ask) says it all. A good benefit adviser cannot hang his or her hat on being a single product expert. As Denny Ebersole clearly points out, you've got to drop your complacency and start learning everything that we do. LTD, STD, voluntary, HR outsourcing, payroll outsourcing - you need to have working knowledge of it all. As Ebersole's client Poch© Welding pointed out, your clients need fresh ideas and complete solutions. And by expanding the services and ideas you can bring to your clients, you'll be able to adjust for declining or disappearing revenue from medical.
Become a trusted adviser
As Jack Kwicien's column on page 48 suggests, a real adviser starts with questions and fact-finding. You need to know your client before you can help them. I love how Kwicien and Beattie make it a practice to do a "discovery meeting." I do the exact same thing. How can you be of help if you don't know the issues? Another key idea in the article: they helped create a three- to five-year plan for the client. And did you notice? - the client agreed to pay for the planning. An opportunity? Most definitely.
Reach Bryant, founder of SB&K Benefits, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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