In this article published in the April 17, 2018 issue of the Sacramento Business Journal, the San Francisco Business Times and the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Sutter Health Plus Account Executive Scott Carpenter shares his thoughts on maximizing the value of a broker.
Regardless of company size or industry, insurance brokers can serve as an employer’s go-to expert and adviser on the always-changing health benefits landscape.
While a broker’s services are at no cost to an employer, the objective information on multiple carriers and plan designs, industry expertise, and marketplace relationships are invaluable. From negotiating premium rates with carriers to explaining plan designs and benefits to employees, a broker can be your partner and trusted resource for all things health insurance.
Today’s HR professionals wear many hats and choosing the right broker for your company can feel like a daunting task. Here are a few tips on selecting the right broker and how to maximize their value.
Finding a broker
Like many services, a broker partnership is relationship-driven. Look for someone who is organized and available, and who truly understands the needs of your company and workforce. Trusted colleagues in similar industries can be helpful sources for broker referrals. Ask your human resources team to reach out to local carriers—they interact daily with brokers and can provide recommendations.
When vetting brokers, ask the broker firm for client references to better understand the companies and industries they specialize in. Take time to meet the key people in your potential broker’s firm, especially the support team who would help manage your account day-to-day. Ensure you can get the right kind of support your company needs, such as nontraditional work hours or multi-lingual communications.
Maximizing the relationship
Once you’ve secured a broker, keep an open line of communication and build a strong relationship from the start. A key testing ground for the relationship is the month or two prior to your first open enrollment period with the broker.
Most large employer groups need several months lead time to plan for open enrollment—the earlier the better. Your broker should be available to help you plan and implement a successful open enrollment. This may include advising you on the right information to share with your workforce, coordinating carrier participation at events, or conducting onsite presentations.
As a conduit to health plan carriers, brokers can also help you access health plan materials in multiple languages to aid employees in identifying the right choice for themselves and their families.
After open enrollment ends, your broker should be available to help answer employee questions, manage the enrollment process, keep your team up-to-date on pending federal and state laws and regulations, and navigate the often-confusing jargon of health benefits.
For instance, if one of your employees has a major health concern or is expecting change in life circumstances, such as having a baby or getting married, your broker should be able and willing to quickly answer coverage questions.
Brokers are licensed professionals required by law to continually sharpen their skills. The California Department of Insurance mandates brokers to complete 24 hours of continuing education for each two-year license term. They build their network and expertise through frequent communication with carriers. Good brokers understand their specific clients and the health care industry as a whole. As health insurance changes, a broker should evolve with it.
An effective broker will put your business and employees first. A resource you can call on at any time, a broker can help you find solutions to the health care challenges you face.