It’s a tumultuous time for the healthcare industry. With changes to laws and regulations surrounding the United States healthcare system looming, and some having already taken place, uncertainty is causing significant impacts
for everyone connected. Insurers, individuals, and employers all face growing complexity with health insurance.
Some of the biggest impacts so far have been to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), casting doubt on its future. The Trump administration has made it a priority to try and repeal ACA laws and regulations
, which until recently hadn’t been met with much success. What the future holds in store is still up in the air.
But when the Affordable Care Act was first announced and subsequently signed into law, many in the healthcare industry thought it would cause significant problems for one of the major players in the market: insurance brokers
. However, as we move closer to the end of ACA open enrollment, and with all the confusion surrounding health insurance, the opposite is currently true. More and more individuals are seeking out brokers to assist them in buying health insurance
Many insurance brokers are expecting the remainder of 2017 to be extremely busy, and 2018 could be even more of the same. But why is this the case, and how do changes to the Affordable Care Act play a role in this new trend?
What’s Changing for Insurance Brokers in the Healthcare Market?
Changes to ACA regulations and funding are having widespread impacts on health insurance in the United States
. Mostly due to the uncertainty that surrounds the Affordable Care Act, insurers have had to take measures that are causing major disruptions in the industry. Insurance premiums are increasing to record highs for both ACA and non-ACA plans. In addition, insurers have started to provide less offerings within certain markets, with some exiting all together, leaving customers scrambling to stay insured.
The reduction of ACA funding means that there is less assistance this year for those who go through the marketplace to buy health insurance. To combat this issue, the Trump administration is encouraging the use of brokers to help people sign-up for insurance. The administration says that brokers can act an advisor to those that need help with the process of buying health insurance.
To help make this easier for customers and brokers, a new section has been added to the HealthCare.gov
website (called Help On Demand) that allows individuals seeking healthcare to connect with brokers who are registered through the exchange. This new feature is actively marketed on the website, and a call-to-action (CTA) titled “Find Local Help” is clearly visible on the homepage. When a person clicks on this CTA, it allows you to search for a registered broker by city, state, and/or zip code.
So far, more than 43,000 health insurance brokers and agents
have been trained and certified to sell plans through the ACA marketplace.
What Does This Mean for Health Insurance Brokers Moving Forward?
The Trump administration, in its bulletin announcing the plan to incorporate insurance agents, said that brokers would be able to obtain leads and add potential new clients to their books. We have written before how insurance and benefits brokers face serious competition today. These competitors include other brokers and larger brokerage firms, professional employer organizations (PEOs), and other HR outsourcing companies.
This increased competition means that brokers have to always be protecting their book of business, while at the same time attempting to bring on new clients. Working with the ACA exchange opens up brokers to a brand-new client pipeline that they may have otherwise missed out on, and can help achieve business growth.
For brokers who signed up with the ACA marketplace, and even those who have not, the next few weeks will be extremely busy. But it also represents an opportunity to truly be a trusted advisor and even gain new clients.
2018 Is Shaping Up to Be a Busy Year for Insurance Brokers
The deadline for ACA open enrollment is December 15, leaving only a few weeks left. But if 2017 is any indication, 2018 is looking like it will be a busy year for brokers, and one with plenty of potential. Will brokers be turned to more frequently as healthcare becomes increasingly more complicated? Only time will tell.
One thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t just the individual market that is feeling the pressure of healthcare changes. Group and employer markets are also facing extreme uncertainty in 2018, with premium rates increasing significantly for 2018. Brokers can provide the same assistance to employers as they do for individuals seeking health insurance coverage. Some brokers can even help simplify HR as a whole for employers through their partnerships and service offerings.
As change comes and complexity increases around health insurance and employee benefits, the need for insurance and benefits brokers grows, too. Employers who need help navigating today’s health insurance market shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a broker to assist with this significant business challenge.
As both individuals and employers seek help in finding the best possible health insurance plans, brokers can be an extremely valuable resource. If in need of support and guidance with health insurance, don’t underestimate just how helpful a broker can be.
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