By Cyril Tuohy
What’s eating at health insurance brokers? With all the coming changes in health reform and companies needing guidance in a complicated benefits world, you’d think benefits brokers would see a bright future ahead.
Not according to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report for Brokers, which reveals that brokers harbor deep doubts about their industry’s future.
Nearly one third (29 percent) of brokers say they are concerned about remaining relevant to their clients, the survey found. In addition only 15 percent said they were completely confident in the future of their firms and the industry.
The survey also found that 62 percent of brokers pointed to “rising health care costs impacting client decisions on benefits” as the most important issue for their firm.
The survey, conducted by Research Now, polled nearly 1,884 benefits decision-makers, 5,299 workers and more than 300 brokers.
Prior surveys have noted the extraordinary growth of the online channel as a way to compare benefits, and as a way of cutting out the middleman from the purchasing decision. Other surveys have shown that companies and families value the advice and the service provided by brokers.
“Although it’s clear that the role of the insurance broker and agent is changing alongside the evolving health insurance landscape, our research shows that their expertise is increasing in demand among companies and employees,” Michael Zuna, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Aflac, said in a statement.
Astute brokers will “seize upon health care reform as an opportunity” for them to continue to offer their value, Zuna also said.
Customized benefits options represent an area of future opportunity for brokers, and the survey found that 82 percent of brokers recommended tailored benefits. More than nine out of 10 (92 percent) employees said they would take advantage of tailored options.
But while the stated take-up rate of tailored options is high, only 38 percent of employers provide such plans. Similarly, the survey also found that although 56 percent of brokers recommend that clients sponsor employee wellness programs, 60 percent of the companies in the study did not offer such programs.
Maybe it’s just that clients simply aren’t listening to their brokers, and that even when they are, there’s nothing brokers can do because employers aren’t offering employees what they want.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected].
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