5 game-changing tips from brokers on the frontline

“I saw fear in her eyes.” That’s how one broker described a recent meeting he had with an HR benefits manager. “I was walking through her plan options and then her face changed and things got serious. We spent the next 45 minutes discussing a dozen different ways that we could meet her healthcare goals without raising costs or cutting benefits. We had some deep discussions and made some tough decisions.”  

Does this sound familiar? Health insurance planning meetings have become therapy sessions for HR managers struggling to juggle rising cost and changing benefits. But your customer’s distress is actually your opportunity to save the day. 

Every week, I talk with different brokers about their ongoing challenges and how they solve them. I thought I’d share some insights from brokers on the frontline — the trailblazers who are finding innovative ways to solve their clients’ toughest health plan challenges. Before we talk sales strategy, let’s look at the numbers.

Statistics reveal a telling story 
The number of small and midsize employers who moved to a self-funded insurance platform increased by a whopping 21% from 2013-2016, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute

The percentage of private sector establishments offering health plans that report they self-insure at least one of their health plans has been generally increasing since the mid-1990s,” notes Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute in his 2016 Self-Insured Health Plans trends report. “However, between 2013 and 2015, as a result of the increased in self-insured plans among small and mid-sized employers, the percentage of covered workers enrolled in self-insured plans is now at 60%.

All this while medical costs continue to grow as a total of employee compensation— PwC’s Health Research Institute predicting a 6% cost trend for 2020. Yes, you read that right. 

Rising costs have pushed more and more companies to explore different approaches and supplements to insurance such as wellness programs, narrow networks, incentives, on-site clinics and telemedicine. Plus, companies are plan hopping more than ever before. For strong brokers, this all sounds like opportunity knocking.

Today’s broker is a problem solver
The first step to succeed in this new healthcare climate is to realize the significant opportunity that comes from new challenges. As the 2019 Employee Benefit Adviser analysis notes, “There are growth opportunities for brokers who are prepared to take advantage.” Employers echo that sentiment. As one of my employer clients recently stated, “We’re a small benefits team for a 1,000-person company. I rely on my broker to come in and meet with us regularly.” Listen closer and it’s a subject matter expert that they’re asking for. Someone to help them navigate these waters. More partner, less salesperson — someone to go that extra mile with their client’s best interests in mind.

The advice you’ve been waiting for
Throughout the year, I’ve discussed the state of the insurance industry with dozens of brokers who are on the front line of health plan strategy. Throughout my conversations, five key themes have continually percolated to the top as ways brokers can stay up to date on trends and grow their business.

1. Focus on pain not price
Saving money is important, but don’t fast-forward past understanding the client’s unique needs. Says one broker, “If I sell on price, I’ll lose on price. I try to come in and ask, `What are your pain points and let me solve for that.’”

2. Become a go-to resource
The best brokers help their clients understand how to be the heroes within their company. “If you embed education into a story they can remember, they’ll walk into their next meeting and tell that story and look good,” says one veteran broker. “Then they’ll go to their boss and up the food chain the story travels.”

3. Dig deeper, there’s always more
The market is ever-evolving and solutions, even poorly designed ones, abound. Push yourself to learn more. “Good brokers need to be insatiably curious and more intellectually stimulated,” says a leading industry innovation consultant. “It’s a competitive advantage.”

4. Put the ‘pro’ in proactive 
Don’t be lulled into complacency by a client that never pushes for more. Stay ahead by putting options on the table for them. “I want to bring options for them and say, ‘This may not be for you but know that it’s out there,’” said one notable broker. “I don’t want someone else bringing it up and hitting them up with the shiny new thing. We’ll lose them as a client.”

5. Leave discounts to the grocery store
The discount game in healthcare is over. More and more HR professionals understand that their focus should be on cost and REAL savings, not discounts. Make sure your clients understand this and help them find opportunities to save money with solutions that help lower spend today and over the long term.

Bottom line: don’t get left behind
The role of today’s health insurance broker has undoubtedly evolved. It’s time to embrace that change and become a true healthcare resource for your clients by first understanding their unique challenges. Take time to learn more about innovative solutions – from reference-based pricing to direct contracts. Your client needs guidance, help and support and they should get it from you. If not, they’ll certainly get it from another broker.

 
Doug.png

 About the Author: Doug Sanders
As a Market Leader at Imagine Health, Doug offers deep experience that spans all aspects of healthcare. He has worked for major players in the insurance space as well as leading healthcare consultancies and health systems. At Imagine Health, Doug is focused on introducing brokers and their clients to the benefits of the Imagine model. A different kind of health plan, Imagine Health lowers spend today, controls costs over the long term and gives control to the people who pay for healthcare: employers and their employees. Ready to challenge the status quo and take back control of healthcare? Contact Imagine Health to get started.

Doug Sanders