It’s probably the toughest part of a’s job: choosing next year’s health insurance plan. If they’re lucky, benefits pros have powerful allies in that high-stakes game: insurance brokers.
But some brokers are little more than order-takers, pushing for renewal of last year’s coverage from the insurance carrier you’ve always used. If you’re starting to think your broker is part of the problem and not part of the benefits solution, maybe it’s time to look for a new one.
We asked readers of our “HR Weekly” electronic newsletter to tell us what they look for in an insurance broker. See if their advice can help you make better decisions this year.
Seek satisfied customers
"Contact noncompetitive companies in your area for broker referrals. Ask them if they have been happy with the service they receive." — Donna
More than a renewal
"If you are not getting all of the following, your broker isn’t providing all you deserve. A good broker should:
- Help you obtain quotes at renewal time.
- Push back on your provider to lower renewal rates.
- Provide a detailed financial analysis to help your decision-making process.
- Learn employee needs and how they’re using the plan. When we changed brokers, one of the big benefits was that they helped us survey and analyze our employee plan usage. We found that we could go with a high-deductible health plan that saved us money while still covering pretty much the full deductible in-house.
- Visit several times a year to ensure you’re not having problems with your carrier. Our agent comes into the plant every other month and makes a walk-through. The employees know who she is now, and her visits often elicit information about issues that people don’t think to bring up with HR.
- Play an active role in resolving issues you and your employees are having with the carrier.
- Provide documentation and plan summaries and conduct meetings to help employees understand their coverage.
- Support HR in meeting with new hires to explain benefits and the enrollment process.
- Provide online resources to help communicate with and educate employees." — Julie
Who’s the client?"Your broker’s first concern should be what’s best for you, the client. Your broker should offer more than just bidding out your group’s business at renewal time.
"Make sure the broker is licensed with numerous companies, not just the one he or she brings in at renewal. He or she may be staying with that particular company because he or she is getting not only commissions, but bonuses as well.
"Look for a broker that handles all service, claims and billing issues for you." — Becky
"A good broker should reach out to the client throughout the year, as well as at renewal. That way, there aren’t any major shocks when the renewal is received. The broker should request a fresh census each year and then do a market study to make sure you are getting the best plan for your money.
"Then they should put together a proposal that lays out quotes comparing what you have against your other options, showing coverage differences as well as the differences in rates.
"They should talk to you about alternative coverage options (such as Health Savings Accounts) and other cost-saving measures, to help make sure the plans you have are what’s best for your company." — Kathryn
Finding the best fit
"If I had to pick the number one quality of a good broker, it’s that the process is interactive. You as the employer should feel that you were able to choose that best fit for your employees and company." — Patricia
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