Questions to ask when choosing a broker

Posted by Emily Kubis on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 @ 12:02

Five things to consider

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Your broker is a crucial partner in both choosing health plans for your employees and in managing those costs. Choosing one is an important decision, but they can be tough to compare. Brokerages seem more or less the same, and it feels nearly impossible to measure one broker’s performance versus another.

If you’re looking for a broker for the first time, or considering new options, what metrics should even you use? Here are five questions for business owners, chief financial officers and HR reps to consider when choosing a broker.

1. How are you paid?

Many brokers are incentivized through the commission system to advise choices not necessarily in their client's’ best interest. For example, many believe this commission system contributed to a slower-than-expected employer acceptance rate for health saving accounts. Because premiums for HSAs are cheaper than traditional health insurance, many brokers advised against them or did little to help employees understand and embrace them.

2. What administration capabilities do you offer?

A tremendous amount of time and effort is wasted on paper-based health benefits administration. For that reason, more and more employers are going online, and many brokers take an active role in helping them do so.

3. How will you help Medicare- and COBRA-eligible employees analyze their options? 

Medicare and COBRA-eligible members have options beyond your group plan. But having many choices can make it difficult for these members to decide which is the best strategy for their coverage. Your plan will carry less liability when these members voluntarily drop it, so how will your broker help your employees make those determinations?

4. What's your track record with HSAs?

Your first question here should be what percentage of the broker’s clients offer an HSA option to their employees. The second, more important, question is what percentage of employees at those employer clients take the HSA. If your broker is not good at helping clients achieve a high HSA adoption rate, than you are likely to miss out on a lot of savings.

5. What's your annual benefits renewal negotiation process?

Ask to see the steps the broker follows during a renewal. There are so many moving parts and different parties involved in renewals that trying to just coast through it without a detailed plan is a recipe for disaster. A strong renewal process will ensure you have all the rates you need in hand no later than 40 days before your renewal date. Ideally, your broker should also have a recommendation based on what they know about your organization and your employees.

For more on on how Bernard Health’s benefits brokerage and advice services can help your organization, click here.

If you liked this post, you may also like “New employer health plans emerge to avoid ACA penalties.

Topics: healthcare, brokers, heath insurance

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