Flash back to 2010 and the original intent of healthcare.gov and most people imagined, if it worked, consumers would just go to one website and buy health insurance as easily as they do a song from iTunes. Companies would be able to insure all of their employees quickly and at a lower cost. The need for insurance agents and brokers to navigate the system would be largely unnecessary. Now in 2014, what is the future of insurance agents?
But just like car insurance or homeowners insurance today, the place for an agent and broker is just as necessary, albeit in different terms. The healthcare law’s complexity, never-ending stipulations and issues, and lack of consumer understanding has made insurance agents and brokers a new necessity for millions.
“We have an important role in the health care system; people are counting on us,” NAHU President Ryan Thorn said during a regional meeting of underwriters in Albuquerque. “We earn our living by helping people, not by manning a telephone.”
The throngs of navigators, assisters, guides, sherpas, and others to help people enroll for health insurance have little training. In most cases they have roughly 10 hours of training before helping consumers with their healthcare choices. Compared to an agent or broker with 10 years of experience, there’s value in just knowing more. Consumers just need to find those agents and agents just need to earn their consumer’s trust.
Navigators rarely have muck knowledge about the networks or providers consumers are buying into. Many are unhappy when their long-time doctor is no longer in their network, something an insurance agent would have easily picked up on.
Talk of agents and brokers being unnecessary isn’t heard anymore and with millions of Americans now facing the mandate for insurance or face fines, the role of the agent down the street has new meaning, new appeal, and new business to do. It’s up to the agents and brokers to get in front of those people.