This month marks the 10th anniversary of Benefits Selling Magazine. We decided there was no better way to celebrate than to break down the top 10 catalysts that have shaped and changed the benefits industry in the past 10 years. Find out what they are.
Health care reform gets all the press. All the love. All the hate. All the controversy. But what’s been overlooked by most is that the politicians and regulators began the painful process of reform years before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was even a gleam in President Obama’s eye. Advisors have been adapting to a new way of life for a while now, while brokers still struggle with “life after reform.”
George W. Bush and health care reform
Say what you want about George W. Bush and his often-debated legacy, but the 43rd president has made a significant impact on the benefits industry.
Among his policies, President Bush made two landmark changes affecting the way millions of Americans view and pay for their health care.
Mergers and acquisitions
Just how big an impact have mergers and acquisitions made in the employee benefits space?
In a word: huge.
Doubters can look at the moves firms Arthur J. Gallagher & Co, Brown & Brown and Marsh & McLennan have made over just the past few years. They’ve been gobbling up smaller brokerage firms at a record pace.
Consumer-driven health care
A decade ago, consumer driven health care was little more than a fad—just one more temporary fix aimed at the country’s troubled health care system.
But not anymore.
“There’s no question that today these plans and the associated products—such as health savings accounts—are real, viable options for millions,” says Dennis Triplett, CEO of UMB Healthcare Services.
There’s so much of technology we take for granted—or simply forget how little of it we used at the turn of the century.
Remember AOL? Dial-up internet? All replaced by broadband, turning email into more than a weekend hobby while completely transforming video from a choppy, time-consuming hassle to a business model for at least three major players that allows you to watch just about any television show ever, anywhere you want.
The rise of voluntary
You might call it the rise of voluntary benefits. The game changer in benefits offerings. Call it whatever you want, but voluntary benefits have exploded in recent years.
A decade ago, voluntary products were mainly offered by large employers as a way to both increase engagement as well as curb the rising cost of health care—after all, voluntary benefits can be added by employers for no extra cost.
Rising health care costs
There’s been a lot of debate over the country’s health care system. But there’s one fact nearly everyone agrees on: Health care costs are too damn high.
It’s a simple fact with a lot of repercussions.
For one, more employers are shifting away from full health plans toward high-deductible, lower-cost coverage. More and more employers are having their employees foot more of the bill. Some are dropping coverage altogether.
The uninsured have weighed on this country for decades—economically, socially and politically.
They’re a growing demographic that have plagued presidents as far back Teddy Roosevelt. Others, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have tackled it and failed.
The Great Recession
The Great Recession, as we call it now, began in August 2007, after the U.S. housing bubble began to burst. It went global a couple of months later before the bottom fell out completely in September 2008.
Bankruptcies, falling home values, and plummeting stocks marked the worst economic downturn this country’s seen since the 1930s. Real GDP tumbled, capital investment vanished, and income levels fell. One Bloomberg report from 2009 estimated that, globally, companies saw a loss of more than $14 trillion in value.
But it’s the unemployment rate that gets the most headlines — and most directly affects the broker business.
Health reform in our time
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.
But health reform existed long before then. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi all have played a part throughout the years. But one thing's for sure: Health reform has changed the employee benefits space more than anything else.
Click here for a timeline of health reform, the moments, turning points and events that defined the debate, 1993-present.