It started off like every other piece of bad news to hit the wires over the last few months: the online marketplace for small businesses would be delayed another year.
And while, at first blush, the delay appeared to be the latest in an apparently never-ending avalanche of them for this administration, it’s the best bit of news for everyone else in months.
The brokers are the big winners here, even earning an endorsement from the administration itself during the latest announcement, as they assured employers to use “an agent, broker or insurance company to buy coverage this year, instead of using a government website.”
Two things stand out here: One, it’s almost as if the administration itself just found out about brokers.
(“Wow, what a concept,” you could almost hear Jay Carney saying just before the conference call.)
And, two, after the last two months, can you think of any business owner in his right mind who’d rather use the government website?
NAHU CEO Janet Trautwein weighed in almost immediately, saying in a statement that: “The Department of Health and Human Services announced today that the launch of the online SHOP exchange will be delayed for an entire year. Instead, they are encouraging business owners to use agents and brokers to enroll in plans to be eligible for the 2014 tax credit."
Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters, made the following statement in response:
“By going through an agent, small business owners have the advantage of the experience and advocacy of a professionally licensed health insurance advisor. Not only are agents able to help small business owners find a plan that fits the healthcare needs of their employees and the financial needs of their business, but agents also offer a litany of consumer protections to their clients. Agents are required to complete continuing education courses through their state department of insurance in order to keep their license, and they go through additional certification training to be able to sell exchange policies. Long after a policy is sold, agents continue to administer plans by working directly with carries to resolve any billing and coverage issues that might arise. They also have professional liability insurance, have been proven to decrease insurance fraud, and improve claims processing efficiency and coverage stability.”
Employers – and by extension their workforces – also win here as far as I’m concerned. Brokers and agents offer much more value than any Beltway (or even state-level) bureaucrat. As if that needed clarification.
But at the same time, brokers need to jump all over this opportunity. You’ve got another year to prove your worth and be so much more to your clients than a glorified salesperson – or administrator. Spend the next 12 months showing your clients how much you value that relationship and earning their business with educated, impartial guidance, unparalleled customer service and uncanny market insight.
While the feds struggle to get their websites in order, you’ve got the perfect chance to put them out of business.