Friday, October 21, 2011

Evolving Role of the Broker

As temperatures begin to cool and the days get shorter, thoughts turn to the holidays and the hope for some time to reenergize before kicking off a new year.  However, at UnitedHealthcare, we are busier than ever helping businesses find high quality, affordable health benefits solutions options for 2012.

But I did take time out of this hectic schedule to pause and spend some time looking beyond January 1, 2012.  Recently, I had the pleasure of joining leading health insurance executives at a panel discussion hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Association of Health Underwriters.  I thank GPAHU president Jerry McGlone and all GPAHU leaders for once again hosting a lively discussion on the issues impacting health care coverage today and in the future, including the evolving role of technology to empower consumers, the increasing focus on evidence-based guidelines, the heightened emphasis on wellness and the post-2014 benefits plans mix.

We also spent some time talking about health care exchanges and the ever-changing role of the broker.  I have a special place in my heart for health insurance brokers since I spent about half my career working as a broker.  A lot is being made about the imminent demise of the broker, but as Mark Twain once said “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Brokers are needed more now than ever before… and that will only increase as health care reform continues to roll out throughout the states. Brokers already have a “trusted adviser” status with many of their client businesses yet must evolve even further. 

Employers will still play an integral role in either offering plans themselves or helping employees navigate as-yet developed health care exchanges.  Businesses, especially smaller ones, will not have the time or resources to wade through the myriad of plan options, reform regulations and business incentives that will continue to roll out across the states and/or through federal health care reform… and this will be to their detriment.

Brokers can help employers take advantage of certain changes but must shift away from low-value tasks to make time for ones of greater importance to clients, such as helping create health and wellness solutions to address unique health and affordability needs.  For example, our brokers have played an important role in helping us develop new plan designs and wellness programs and we stand ready to partner with them as we continue to meet the benefits needs of businesses.

And, brokers will become the “consumer educators.”  Consumers who traditionally have been given one benefit plan – or maybe two options – will now have many choices especially when exchanges roll out in 2014 – and many are ill-prepared to make the best choice for themselves and their families.  Who better to help them make those decisions than someone who has a unique vantage point on health benefit offerings?   Enlightened brokers may become the best stewards to help clients and their employees navigate the ever-more turbulent health care market.

We look forward to enhancing our relationships with brokers and playing a vital part in their transformation – as we all hopefully share a goal to help individuals live healthier lives.

UnitedHealthcare is bringing Health Care Lane to Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 8.  We look forward to seeing you there!

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