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Few aspects of your business may feel as unwieldy as your benefits plan. We often talk with business owners who are frustrated by the year-over-year increases in benefits costs, but the challenge of making substantial changes to a plan deters many leaders from actually addressing the problem.

Most business owners are not benefits experts. They don’t want to upset their employees by making the wrong change. And decades of benefits frustration can make any attempt to alter the trajectory of this situation feel like a pointless exercise.

So when we reach the point of a leader being willing to make a change, this question sometimes comes next: “Can I keep working with my current broker?”

Impactful Change Without Leaving Your Broker

For how scary a benefits change can seem, keeping your existing broker can feel like a security blanket. You likely have rapport with the broker, have worked with them for years, and may even have come to trust their advice and insights. Though many leaders may not admit to this part directly, keeping the broker relationship intact could make it easier to reverse course if the experiments with the new advisor don’t work out.

Is it possible to make meaningful changes in the cost and quality of your benefits plan with your current broker in the mix? Yes.

Is it practical? Maybe.

Is it easy? Absolutely not.

If a broker is fully willing to collaborate with an advisor like myself, the process of unlocking new revenue with your benefits plan can go smoothly, but the reality is that brokers often represent the status quo, creating natural friction between them and anyone who challenges the business to think differently.

Sources of Broker Friction

In a traditional benefits cycle–the one that increases your annual costs by 10 to 20 percent each year–most broker activity happens annually around plan renewals with some light administrative work peppered throughout the rest of the year.

Self-funded benefits plans and partially self-funded benefits plans require much more activity. These approaches are designed to be agile and responsive to improve efficiency and to reduce overall costs, which means that your broker now has to manage their normal day-to-day work , such as:

  • Additions to the plan
  • Deletions from the plan

But also assist in the management of:

  • Directly address claims and claims-related issues
  • Field benefits questions from you and your employees
  • Managing ongoing education for your employees revolving around a changing employee and employer mindset of how they are accessing the healthcare system

While the broker takes on these tasks, our team is implementing cost-savings strategies, addressing your pharmaceutical spend (which could mean doing the legwork to source drugs at a lower costs), analyzing your historical benefits data and your ongoing data, and negotiating with providers to lower your expenses while increasing the quality of care.

That’s everyday at the office for our team, but for a broker, this is a very different model and can be much more demanding than the status quo alternative.

On top of the logistics, each suggestion our team makes hints at an unspoken but troublesome question: “If this new solution has merit, why didn’t your broker recommend it in the first place?”

The potential answers to that question can be uncomfortable for the broker and deter them from fully collaborating.

What’s Possible vs. What’s Practical

Our team is always willing to work with a broker, but the broker has to be willing to work with us. They need to put your interests first and lean into new ideas so that we can do our jobs as the advisor or consultant in this dynamic. 

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