By Tim Rasch, Independent Insurance Broker
These are unprecedented times for business owners and executives, faced not only with the challenge of maintaining healthy, viable organizations, but also the added burden and complexity of compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 2014 brings an insurance mandate that we have never experienced before, which is that everyone (with the exception of a small minority) must carry a medical insurance ID card in their wallet or purse. The problematic rollout of the ACA combined with the ongoing regulatory changes at both the Federal and State level, continues to cause confusion and frustration for all impacted, especially businesses. Allowing individuals to access their own healthcare options has created more difficulty instead of making things easier. The technological solutions which were marketed as a way to streamline processes and help people understand their options are not living up to the hype.
As a licensed, professional health insurance agent, I have been assisting my business clients for many years with their benefits strategies and purchasing decisions. While there have been changes in areas such as plan designs, insurance rates and various trends on cost containment and value-based benefits packages, for the most part there has been stability and predictability for employers. The changes mandated by the ACA have had, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact on business (whether they choose to offer health coverage or not). I’m spending a lot of time talking to people who are purchasing insurance for the first time. These individuals are just now learning what the ACA really means and how it will affect them and their family. The bulk of my day is spent educating, communicating and collaborating to help people enroll. It’s taking us a lot more time, but hopefully working together, we can get everything done and done the right way.
Recently, I was on a trip to Eastern Washington and I spent time talking to employees who were receiving an employer-sponsored health care plan for the first time. The business owner asked me to attend because he, like many others, believes that it’s the right thing to involve an agent to help people understand their healthcare options. Prior to the enrollment meeting, three employees had already enrolled in the Washington Healthplan Finder exchange. One man, in particular, was irritated and exasperated by the process of trying to enroll. He was a middle-aged man who needed to enroll himself and his teenage daughter. This man had spent a ton of his time researching on the internet, calling 800 numbers and talking to many people to determine what he thought he needed. While he knew his employer would be providing health insurance, he believed that with the subsidy he would likely receive a better deal through the state-based exchange.
I worked with him and compared the plan he elected through the exchange to the employer-sponsored plan he was now eligible for. The exchange product ended up being completely different than what the man believed he had purchased. Not only that, but the employer-sponsored plan provided a better monthly premium rate with a lower deductible. After spending the time to compare the products, we determined the best course of action was to enroll him under the employer-sponsored plan instead. This saved him over $300 per month and provided him the coverage that he actually needed. Not only was this beneficial for the individual employee, but it also highlighted the value of what the employer was offering to employees, a great tool for retention.
There are so many examples that illustrate why agents are more important than ever in helping businesses and individuals determine the healthcare coverage that best fits their need. Agents are the answer because they can take the time to review what’s available for each client. An agent can review what is available through the state marketplace, and review directly with the carrier to determine what the best options are. Are the plans in the exchange really the best? Are there options directly through the carrier that will be affordable? The licensed health care agent has all the avenues to determine the best available product at the best price to fit the needs and strategy of the client. The services the agent provides are paid for by the insurance company, so there are no additional costs tacked on. In addition, working with an agent provides you a partnership throughout your entire buying process and beyond.
To read more about how agents are the answer, or to find a licensed health insurance agent, please visit us at www.agentsaretheanswer.com