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August 13, 2018

Benefits Advisers: It’s About to Get Real

Summary:

However unfair, benefits advisers need to brace themselves for the picture that Bezos/Buffett/Dimon are about to paint of them.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

You don’t have to scroll very far in your social media timeline to see the posts of outrage and calls for transparency aimed at the players in today’s healthcare insurance game.

And, rightfully so. The waste, fraud and, at times, seemingly criminal behavior of the BUCAHs, pharma and healthcare providers is a travesty. It has to change. All these guilty players need to be called out, held to a higher standard and forced to account for their contributions to this mess we struggle with every day.

Oh, it’s happening, sweetheart

The Bezos-Buffett-Dimon (B-B-D) healthcare venture is heating up. While I have my serious doubts about their ability to solve the crisis (I believe that, as with most movements, change will happen on a much smaller, much more local scale), there is one thing that this trio will certainly bring, and that is visibility and outrage to the mess, and they will do so at a level we can’t even begin to fathom.

With all due respect and reverence to the #MeToo movement, and others like it, I predict B-B-D will similarly open the floodgates of horror stories from victims of the travesty that has befallen our healthcare system at the hands of providers of care, insurance carriers and big pharma.

We will see and hear, at the most publicly visible level, the telling of stories we are already sharing within our relatively small inner circle on a daily basis.

  • Stories of lost lives due to inaccessibility of care.
  • Stories of couples who choose to divorce so their child can get the care he or she needs.
  • Stories of medications and medical treatment that cost multiples of what they should.
  • Stories of the artificially inflated health insurance premiums that have kept businesses from growing and achieving their profit potential, at the expense of the profit of the insurance carriers.

I can feel you getting excited. I can hear you saying, “bring it on, B-B-D!!”

See also: Bridging Health and Productivity at Work  

Be careful what you wish for

The spotlight from the B-B-D venture will be shone in every perceived dark corner of the system, with a particular intensity on anyone seen as a middleman. If you aren’t concerned yet, you should be.

Make no mistake, benefits advisers, you will be next.

In addition to the stories above, there will also be stories of brokers being paid $50,000/$100,000/$250,000 on a single account for “simply selling a policy.”

Get out in front of this tidal wave

I know most of you who read our posts work your behinds off every single day with the best interests of your clients clearly in mind. I know the decisions you help your clients make are some of the most complex made in their business. I get it.

But perception is reality. And you need to brace yourself for the picture B-B-D is about to paint of you. Be prepared to deal with the perception of being nothing more than the distribution channel of the carriers, a middleman.

You know that the carriers, which many of you attack on a daily basis, are going to be a very big, very sexy target of the B-B-D media machine. What you may not know is that you are going to be seen as part of that same target.

When your compensation ties you directly to the carriers, when you are contractually tied to the carriers more closely than you are to your clients, it is going to be very difficult to separate yourself from the carriers.

Sorry, but it’s true.

You don’t even need tea leaves to predict this one

recent article about the venture is titled, in part, “Eliminate the Middlemen” and specifically addresses both pharma and, hold on, brokers.

You are already being painted as an overpaid, taking-money-on-the-side, not-making-the-recommendations-in-the-best-interests-of-employers, middleman (go read the article). That sound you may be trying to not hear is one of the gauntlet being thrown down, hard.

See also: Association Health Plans: What to Know  

No time to spare

Now is the time to be re-engineering your business to separate yourself from the carriers and to formally serve the clients you have always served altruistically. I get that there are significant changes you will have to make, many of which are not going to be easy. But there are a couple of things that are relatively easy that will take you in the right direction.

  1. Sit down with each of your clients and have a stewardship meeting where you explain very clearly the various ways in which you bring them value.
  2. During that meeting, have a transparent conversation about how much you are being paid by them (via commissions built into the premium) for delivering that value. If possible, let them know you will be asking the carriers to remove your commissions and ask them to pay you directly in a fee-based arrangement.
  3. Finally, educate them about what is broken about the system and the solutions we are starting to see in the industry. Let them know you will be there to help them take advantage of every innovative solution that makes sense for them.

I get that these may be difficult discussions to have, but, I promise you, they are nowhere near as difficult as the defensive discussion you will have to have if you wait for B-B-D to tell a story on your behalf.

Don’t believe me, just ask the carriers that have been on the receiving end of your daily attacks.

This article was originally published on Q4intel.com

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About the Author

Kevin Trokey is founding partner and coach at Q4intelligence. He is driven to ignite curiosity and to push the industry through the barriers that hold it back. As a student of the insurance industry, he channels his own curiosity by observing and studying the players, the changing regulations, and the business climate that influence us all.

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