Although the presidential race is ongoing, the polls have closed for BenefitsPRO's 2016 Employer Survey and benefits brokers who listen to what their customers are telling them and deliver cost-effective solutions in a fast-changing business environment will be the clear-cut winners.

First thing's first: 77 percent of respondents have never considered “dumping their broker and going it alone.” So if brokers' jobs are secure, what can they do to better serve their clients and grow their business?

As it turns out, many top concerns on employers' minds echo those in the presidential race: the sluggish economy; the ongoing ramifications of the Affordable Care Act; and the continued integration of technology to increase productivity and profits. There is also encouraging news for the profession: A large majority of employers consider brokers to be valuable business partners and sources of reliable informaion.

Issue one: The economy

It comes as no surprise that 4 out of 5 employers responded that the economy influences their benefits spending. Eight-four percent say their expenses for health care and benefits increased from 2015 to 2016. Nearly 39 percent report “significant” price hikes last year, while 45 percent say expenses increased “some.” No one cites a significant decline in costs.

With the economy remaining a major concern, employers are looking for ways to hold the line on rising expenses. For many, this means asking employees and their families to contribute more. Almost 60 percent expect their employees to pick up more of the tab in 2017, and more than 13 percent have dropped coverage for spouses. Sixty-two percent of employers have considered implementing or expanding consumer-driven plans.

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