Myth buster

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My New Year's resolution is threefold: 1. Expand Cobbs Alleninto more cities (we added three in 2017); 2. Do my best to get theyounger generation excited about the opportunity that exists in theinsurance world; and 3. Most importantly, continue to debunk themyth that health care costs cannot be controlled by showing currentand future clients how this can be done.

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Brandon Scarborough, president, Cobbs Allen

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Full Docket

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Software development, more strategic partnerships, continuedbusiness retention and growth, and continual enhancement ofexisting products.

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Deb Ault, president, Ault International MedicalManagement

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Provide Value

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I have two New Year's resolutions. The first is to learn moreabout my clients' businesses. I want to find out about all of theirvendor partners and add as much value as I can by introducing themto vendors that I like and trust. I want to be able to positivelyimpact their overall business, not just their benefits. I believethe best value that I can bring, aside from my knowledge ofbenefits, is the network of professionals I've surrounded myselfwith.

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My second resolution is to be more strategic in planning myyear. I'd like to spend more time in January choosing prospectsthat I know are willing and open to the possibility of change. I'dalso like to increase my client base in certain niches and becomean expert in those markets. Part of my planning strategy will be tospend more time prospecting in those markets and attendingindustry-related events.

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Rachel Miner, group health cost containment expert, EmployeeBenefit Advisors of the Carolinas

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Open Mind

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To continue to find new solutions I never knew existed thatbring better care and lower costs to the employees of myclients.

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David Contorno, Lake Norman Benefits, Inc.

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Empower Others

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Spend more time doing what I enjoy, resulting in improvedrelationships both professionally and personally. Write more.Explore more ways to help and empower others. Find ways to be less“busy.” I'm so done with that word.

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Tanya Boyd, Tanya Boyd & Associates

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Consultative Approach

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I'm going to continue to focus on shifting my practice into moreconsulting jobs, look to add one more paid advisory boardopportunity and build a formal succession plan of action.

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Susan L. Combs, CEO, Combs & Company

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Learn & Teach

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Be more of a student so that I can be more of a teacher. Justordered three books to help kick it off: “The Ideal Team Player”,“Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”, and “An AmericanSickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Takeit Back.”

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Kevin Trokey, partner and coach, Q4intelligence

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Authentic & Empathetic

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This year, I'm focusing on two core values in everything I do:empathy and authenticity. I believe they must exist together;empathy without authenticity is superficial and off-putting.Authenticity without empathy is abrasive.

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We often forget that whatever we're selling isn't about us, it'sabout our customer. Too often in insurance, we forget that it's notabout our bottom line, or even our client's: It's about the healthand financial well-being of real families and the experiences theyhave during the scariest times in their lives. This isn't anindustry that should have any tolerance or space forsmoke-and-mirror tactics. I think this mindset will be helpfulwhile navigating not only new friendships and tough sales cyclesbut navigating a very polarizing political environment as well.

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In my personal and professional life, my goal this year is tofocus on empathy for the people and situations around me first, andto represent myself and what I stand for authentically.

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Meg Murphy, director of partnerships, HealthJoy

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Actionable Solutions

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I would like to improve the role and perception of the healthinsurance agent as a health insurance consultant. I expect to seeinnovative and creative thought leaders convert their thoughts intoactionable solutions for their clients and marketplace. Ipersonally would like to see reference-based pricing become moremainstream with fully insured individual and group health plans,encouraging insureds/employees to negotiate a better pricingarrangement option with their own doctors than their current HMO orPPO network.

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Another game-changer is to allow consumers to receive limitedreimbursement as part of a health plan's benefit when using theirown professional wellness related services and activities, whichcan include hypnotists, nutritionists, and personal wellness andfitness coaches.

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Another resolution is to continue to share my knowledge andexperiences with the health insurance industry and consumers Iserve—directly and via social networking. I hope to continue tolisten to my colleagues and clients for ideas regarding health carereform. I will continue to network and attend as many industryconferences as possible. I expect to hear more about whatagents/brokers/vendors/carriers want to bring to the market toimprove or disrupt the reimbursement and delivery systems of healthcare services.

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Wayne Sakamoto, president, Health Insurance Interactive,Inc.

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Time Investment

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As our company grows, it becomes increasingly important to focusinternally, ensuring we have the right resources in place tosupport our broker and employer customers, as well as ourteammates. The most critical measure of success is connectivity toand engagement with our broker and employer clients.

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I resolve to invest time in the field with my sales team as muchas possible, sharing ideas and listening to feedback from ourbroker champions and key clients. For them, the attention andappreciation is well deserved; for us, understanding theirexperience is priceless.

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Meghann Carroll, VP sales, Employee ProtectionSolutions

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Shifting the Burden

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As I've been working through the 4th quarter and the bulk of ourclient renewals, my New Year's resolution has become abundantlyclear. The impact that the rising cost of employee benefits ishaving on employees and businesses is suffocating growth andplacing a huge burden on families. Insurance costs continue to risebecause the cost of the underlying care continues to rise and noone along the health care supply chain has a true interest insignificantly curbing those costs.

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While I respect that all businesses need to operate in aprofitable manner, my 2018 resolution is to continue to dissect andre-engineer the health care supply chain to operate at maximumefficiency.

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We will divert dollars from the health care supply chain to ourclients' balance sheets and ultimately, their employees' paychecks.I feel so confident in our ability to accomplish this goal thatwhere we are able to do so, we will be tying our compensationdirectly to the clients' health plan performance.

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Robert M. Gearhart, Jr., partner, DCW Group

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Employee Empowerment

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I want to do a better job of educating employers. It's notnecessary to shift costs to employees in order to control healthcare costs; top benefit consultants are empowering employees to begreat consumers of health care, and when employees are greatconsumers, care can be free or nearly free. But when they're not,care will be expensive.

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Gary C. Becker, insurance consultant & risk manager, CEO,Becker Benefit Group, Inc.

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Transparency

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We will not give any ideas away without requesting the clientsign a non-disclosure that prohibits them from implementingsolutions with any other advisor.

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We will begin working on every client renewal either 90 or 120days in advance, even if the TPA or carrier doesn't provide therenewal until 60 days in advance. This gives clients peace of mindand more time to explore all options. Another resolution is 100percent compensation transparency.

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Suzy K. Johnson, MBA, CEBS, RHU, CLTC, president, owner,Employee Benefit Advisors of the Carolinas, LLC

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Breaking Barriers

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Our resolution is to continue to help employers invest intransparency, employee advocacy and improved health and well-being.We know these are components of a truly high-performing benefitstrategy that will improve the health of people and businesses.

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We will remove barriers that stem from complexity and giveemployers more clarity and confidence in their decision making. Inall decisions, we will focus on total well-being—physical,financial and emotional—to help employer attract and engage a 21stcentury workforce.

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Reed Smith, SVP/Employee benefits practice leader, CoBizInsurance

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Youth Movement

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I want to become more heavily involved in my localcommunity—especially in the area of youth entrepreneurship. I wantto encourage children of all ages to reach for the old-fashioned“American Dream”—to own and run their own business.

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I also resolve to banish my old-fashioned company website. I'mfired up to launch a brand-new brand, logo, and website!

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Finally, I plan to write two new industry-related articles permonth in 2018 to make up for not writing nearly as much as I hadoriginally planned in 2017.

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Eric Silverman, Silverman Benefits Group

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Keeping Promises

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My New Year's resolution is to become even more involved in thelocal and regional HR and C-suite community, as there are lots oforganizations and employers that are throwing away thousands—and inmany cases millions—annually because of faulty plan designs orplans that don't truly meet the needs of their employees. It is myduty as a professional in this industry to make sure employers arenot overspending on things that could easily drive down costs andincrease their bottom lines.

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We will be more methodical in how we reach employers and morefocused and concise in how we deliver our value proposition soemployers realize that their success is our success. We only win ifwe deliver on our promise of helping them contain their employeebenefits cost.

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Felipe Barganier, CEO and president, GAB InternationalLLC

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Look Within

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My New Year's resolution for my agency is to spend one full dayeach month working on my business versus working in it. (Figuringout what's working well, what we can improve upon, etc.) We run avery fast-paced agency and since we are the day-to-day benefitsadministrators for our clients, it's easy to get too busy workingin the business. We're very fortunate to be a 100 percentreferral-based agency, but along with that, it can become too easyto just wait for business, rather than proactively working toincrease our client base. And of course I'll continue to strive todeliver our “5-Point Star Service Guarantee” daily to our clients.After all, it's that guarantee that makes our clients stay with usand tell others about us.

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Heather Bowers, principal, Lone Star Benefits, Inc

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simplifY, Simplify

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2018 will be a year of ultra-focus to continue to enhance ourmember experience, to continue to improve our engagement levels,and to simplify our messaging to employers and members.

  • The member experience work will include refinements to our appand member portal, and enhancements with artificialintelligence.

  • Our engagement levels are very high, so we have many cases toanalyze for the breadcrumbs of success, and places to pilot manynew employer strategies to keep it growing.

  • We realize how confused and out of control members and employersfeel when dealing with health care. We still have lots of room forimprovement to cut out jargon and barriers in order to find thesimplest way to help people navigate health care consumerism.

Reid Rasmussen, Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBenies

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.