Tag Archives: angie’s list

Restoring the Agent-Client Relationship

There has been a lot of frustration in the insurance industry from both those who sell it and those who need it. Both camps are suffering financially, and both can do better if they get together on vital insurance protection, but they just can’t seem to hook up without jumping through hoops. In an era of hyper-information and instant communication, this disconnect may seem crazy, but it’s real. In a time of chaotic change, an online meetup service would be valuable to agents and consumers alike to repair that agent/client relationship and put the personal touch back into insurance.

Financially challenged agents and consumers

Incomes have stagnated for insurance agents and the general public alike, and the route to better times seems unclear for both sides. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for insurance sales agents inched up only 2% between 2010 and 2014. In 2010, it was $62,520.  In 2014, it was $63,730. Furthermore, the field has become overcrowded, with 18% more agents vying for the business in 2014 than in 2010.

The general public has fared no better. Following the Great Recession, which began in December 2007, the wealthiest Americans have done well. The “rest of us,” however, continue to struggle. The proportion of American households defined as “middle-income” remained stagnant from 2010 through 2014, at about 51%, according to a Pew Research Center study. Back in 1970, the “middle-income” percentage was 10 points higher.

The potential for pocketbook improvements

Both insurance agents and their prospects could do better financially if they could somehow get together more quickly and smoothly – through a matchmaker or intermediary.

It’s easy to see how agents could profit. With, say, a 10% to 50% increase in qualified leads per month, a corresponding jump in income could be expected. And with other efficiencies through more nuanced matchmaking, even greater income increases might be forthcoming – through enhanced referrals, for example.

It’s a little more complicated to see how connecting more smoothly could financially benefit insurance buyers. It becomes clear, though, when one goes to the heart of what insurance is for.  It’s for mitigating risk, which can be expensive. It also means personal benefits such as improved health and well-being. For example, good guidance from an agent can:

  • Make the difference between paying and not having to pay for home repairs after a type of storm damage not covered by an “economy” policy the agent advised against.
  • Preserve a family’s estate by convincing the family, early on, of the prudence of securing long-term-care insurance. This could be a financial game changer for millions of families that are now exposed. According to industry estimates, about 90% of those who could benefit from LTC insurance do not own a policy. And one of the biggest causes of bankruptcy is uncovered health expenses, especially in the later years!
  • Help keep clients safe and whole through an auto policy with safe-driving incentives. The potential benefits range from lower premiums to higher lifetime incomes because of avoiding accidents that might interrupt the ability to work.

As technology and society evolve, good guidance from an insurance agent may affect people’s pocketbooks and lives in more significant ways than ever. More and more agents can:

  • Team with financial advisers to foster sound budgeting, savings, investments and money management.
  • Influence their clients’ health by recommending policies, now starting to appear, that come with fitness incentives. The financial win here is double: lower premiums for keeping up one’s wellness routine and greater lifetime earnings through enhanced vitality and work-span.

The matchmaker solution

A good matchmaking service brings insurance agents and buyers together in very efficient, human ways. It starts with search and ends with introductions and contact.  It includes:

  • A search function to locate agents for a particular type of insurance (auto, critical illness, health, homeowners, life, long-term care, Medicare supplement) in a particular geographic area.
  • A list of agents with their pictures and names visible, for the buyer to peruse and select from.
  • Details about each agent, including:
    • Insurance lines and carriers represented.
    • Agent’s biography or background description.
    • Reviews or testimonials with ratings (usually one to five stars).
    • Link to the agent’s personal or business website.
    • Other information ranging from a location map to social media links.

Limited matching has existed for a few years. Some generic consumer rating and matching services embrace insurance agents. They include Yelp and Angie’s List. General search services, such as Google and Bing, serve as de facto matching services, but in a very spotty way. Insurance associations develop leads that are sold to agents but do not typically provide free online access to individual agents.

Robust agent-buyer matching, with all the above elements, is ready for prime time. In 2015, Agent Review, the first complete rating and matching service designed specifically for insurance agents and insurance buyers, was introduced.

Where To Search For Best-In-Class Doctors

No doubt you have seen the ad for Angie’s List. A good-looking male doctor is pictured with the caption, “He has been nothing but focused, dedicated and concerned about my health and well-being.” If searching for a contractor or hair dresser, this might be a good start. But searching this way for doctors? Absurd!

Finding doctors for injured workers through Angie’s List is a recipe for disaster. Subjective rating of medical treatment is not valid. Few patients understand enough about the science of medicine to venture a worthwhile opinion.

Yet, the methodology behind Angie’s List is a relatively common practice in the Workers’ Comp industry. Employers and payers sometimes survey their claimants in an effort to evaluate doctors. Unfortunately, most claimants report whether the doctor’s office has snacks, magazines they like, and the doctor was nice. The information is hardly a basis for utilizing the doctor and is about as helpful as that found in Angie’s List.

Measuring Provider Performance
Finding the right physicians for injured workers requires objective analysis of actual past performance, not patient opinions. Medical proficiency can be measured in terms of outcome, with the most positive outcomes evidenced by return to full work and reasonable medical costs. However, in Workers’ Compensation even more focus should be placed on the course of the claim from the non-medical standpoint.

Industry Research
Workers’ Comp industry research has clearly identified the attributes of good and bad medical performance. For instance, Dr. Ed Bernacki of Johns Hopkins lists characteristics of “cost intensive” physicians. The study1, using data from the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, found that 3.8% of physicians accounted for 72% of the costs. In other words, a small number of physicians have a profound impact on Workers’ Compensation costs. Bernacki’s study identified the characteristics of these cost intensive physicians. They are elements that can be found in the data and used to monitor and score provider performance.

MedMetrics uses the results of industry research studies to design its algorithms that evaluate and score provider performance. The research identifies provider characteristics and claim events under the influence of providers that should be measured. Using those indicators, providers can be compared in their jurisdictions with others in the same specialty to identify the best-in-class.

Medicine Is A Cottage Industry
Medicine in the US is a cottage industry, with services delivered by individuals to individuals. Consequently, it is difficult for any one organization to gather enough individual provider data to create a critical mass for measurement. The problem is complicated by the fact that in Workers’ Comp states vary in fee schedules and other legal requirements so it is not valid to compare data across jurisdictions. Nevertheless, provider performance is more accurate and fairer when evaluated across many claims.

The industry needs an independent organization to collect and analyze the data across multiple organizations so that provider performance can be measured more accurately.

Master Provider Index
MedMetrics is offering Master Provider Index. Data is collected from multiple participating organizations, then validated, and integrated. Provider performance is measured across multiple entities’ claims in a state, thereby creating a richer data resource. The combined data is analyzed and provider performance is scored. Finally, a quick-search is offered online so that best-in-class providers can be found in specific geo-zip regions on demand, on-the-fly.

Not Angie’s List
Master Provider Index is not Angie’s List by any means. Provider performance analytics are based on intelligence gained through industry research and performed on data from multiple organizations by state. Based on Bernacki’s study, one can assume saving up to 72% of costs by avoiding cost intensive physicians!

1Bernacki, et.al. “Impact of Cost Intensive Physicians on Workers’ Compensation” JOEM. Vol. 52. No. 1. January, 2010.