Healthcare Reform. Opportunities for Brokers?

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ChaosSeveral years ago, I realized that where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity.  For visionary leaders who can anticipate their clients’ changing needs in a chaotic situation and adapt faster than the competition, there is vast opportunity.  However, those leaders who spend their time grieving over the good old days can become obsolete, along with their business.

There is certainly a lot of chaos in the world of employee benefits, now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is being implemented. What’s worse, the Act is still evolving!  Besides the many provisions that have been left to various agencies to spell out, Henry Aaron recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that PPACA contains “64 specific authorizations to spend up to $105.6 billion and 51 general authorizations to spend ‘such sums as are necessary’ over the period between 2010 and 2019.” However, Congress must specifically appropriate these funds before they can be spent.

I have talked to a lot of benefit brokers and read a number of articles and blogs about what the PPACA chaos means to the broker community.  Responses have ranged from “There’s no future for brokers so I’m starting a new business” to the boast by one broker in a recent issue of Employee Benefit News that “My business could grow by100%”! The article suggests that this kind of growth comes at the expense of other brokers who are slow to respond and are weeded out.

An article in the October issue of American Agent and Broker shows point by point that there’s considerable upside for brokers who evolve to seize the opportunities.  One thing seems certain – the Affordable Care Act is making health insurance even more demanding and less affordable for employers.  The brokers who will come out ahead are those who can plan more strategically to control costs and take more of the load off of their clients’ HR Departments while executing those strategic plans.

I concur with Beverly Beattie’s advice in Employee Benefit News, “As pressure mounts to find optimum value and affordability in an organization’s program, coupled with uncertain residual effects of reform, we believe a well thought out benefit strategic plan will include the intelligent integration of technology, education, communication, utilization management and promotion of health and wellness.”

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