It's been nine years since we first started asking our readers who they thought were the best in the business. I guess you could say our awards are older than Obamacare.
Jokes aside, it's interesting to look at the evolution of the awards, the winners and the climate around them both. Some of the players have changed. A few haven't changed at all — in fact, should we rename the TPA award (like Hollywood) and call it the AmeriFlex Legacy Award?
I don't know. But brokers are a lot more certain than we are, so without further ado, we present the 2013 Readers' Choice Awards.
1) WHICH CARRIER IS BEST PREPARED FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM?
This is probably the single most important question in this year's race — and has been for a while — but Colonial Life takes the top spot again.
The surprise here is Aflac surged into the Honorable Mention slot, edging out Anthem, last year's second place winner, which fell to third.
By the way, for any of you who've been with us for any length of time, it should come as no surprise that you'll be seeing these two companies a lot over the next few pages.
2) WHICH THIRD-PARTY ADMINISTRATOR OFFERS THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE SERVICE?
Breaking News: Ameriflex wins again — by a landslide — asserting their dominance in the TPA space again, like Jordan's Bulls in the '90s, NBC in the '80s or Scooby Doo in the '70s.
TASC again grabs Honorable Mention honors, keeping this category more stable than any other over the last decade.
3) WHICH ENROLLMENT COMPANY OFFERS THE BEST SERVICE?
There are a couple of things worth mentioning here: Carriers offer enrollment services, which resulted in a few votes for them. But we requested enrollment companies, specifically, so we made an editorial call to limit the winners here to actual enrollment companies.
Second, the numbers indicate brokers are getting away from outsourcing enrollment to a specialist. Whether that means they're leaving it to the carriers or simply doing it themselves is grist for another story entirely.
4) WHICH CARRIER OFFERS THE BEST CONSUMER-DRIVEN PRODUCTS?
Few of us would dispute the fact that the consumer-driven market will be a huge part of the business moving forward. so the two carriers here are well-positioned for years of growth.
It should come as no surprise, then, that juggernauts Colonial Life and Aflac are sitting at the top.
5) WHICH CARRIER OFFERS THE BEST VISION COVERAGE?
This is one award we should consider renaming since VSP has become so synonymous with the product itself.
But Aflac is making moves here that has lodged itself into the No. 2 spot for the first time.
There does, however, appear to be room for improvement in this space overall. One broker wrote, flat out, that “there is no such thing as good vision coverage,” while another complained, “None of them are worth the money.”
6) WHAT TECHNOLOGY COMPANY MAKES YOUR LIFE THE EASIEST?
Again, we asked about tech companies and we got a pair of big-time carriers. But the arguments are in support of Colonial Life's enrollment platform and Aflac's user-friendly underwriting interface. Fair enough.
And for those of you who were wondering, Apple beat out Microsoft by an eight-point margin to earn the title of preferred tech titan. Google came in dead last.
7) WHICH CARRIER OFFERS THE BEST DENTAL COVERAGE?
Obviously, what VSP is to vision, Delta Dental is to dental. And, just like that vision battle, we see a hard-charging Aflac breaking into the honorable mention slot. As one broker mentioned, “Aflac coverage amount increases per year, while the rate's lock in when issued.”
While another broker urged Aflac to increase their preventative benefits, another felt the best carrier for the job remained dependent on the number of lives were included in the case.
“Delta Dental over 100 lives,” he wrote. “And Ameritas under 100 lives.”
8) WHICH COMPANY IS BEST AT WORKING WITH BROKERS?
Guess it's only fitting we wrap this year's Readers' Choice the same way we began, with the one-two Colonial Life/Aflac combo.
Actually, considering their popularity throughout the rest of the poll, it's appropriate they show up here as broker favorites. The secret to any carrier's success is making life easy for the brokers who represent their products and services. And it's clear Colonial Life and Aflac get that.
“They [Aflac] work well with [human resources] by offering free [PPACA] compliance training to employees,” one broker wrote. “This makes the broker happy because HR is now open to new insurance ideas. And Aflac is a non-conflict program so brokers can offer it to any client regardless of current coverage.”