Brokers

ACA Forcing Changes for Brokers

Clients look to brokers for interpretations of the Affordable Care Act
By: | November 3, 2014 • 2 min read

Brokers are increasingly being asked to act as consultants in addition to negotiating price and insurance policy packages.
The Affordable Care Act has increased that trend.

Kelly Hagan, director of operations, employee benefits, at Assured Neace Lukens in Louisville, Ky., said her firm’s clients are increasingly asking for more consultative services, especially after the passage of health care reform.

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Before the ACA passed, employers cared more about price negotiations, she said, but now the brokerage hears more requests related to guidance and advice about ACA compliance, as well as compliance with other regulatory acts such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Hagan said that clients shouldn’t have to ask for certain services; consultation should be a part of a broker’s service package.
To meet demand, Assured Neace Lukens has two wellness managers on staff to help clients develop customized wellness programs, and has hired a corporate compliance officer to provide guidance to clients.

“…clients shouldn’t have to ask for certain services; consultation should be a part of a broker’s service package.”

In addition to one-on-one conversations with clients on priorities, coverages and services, the firm sends out quarterly newsletters and email alerts on compliance issues and presents monthly webinars on topics, such as how to track variable hour employees to determine whether they should be offered health care coverage under the ACA.

Tom Fitzgerald, CEO of Aon Risk Solutions’ U.S. retail operations in Chicago, said that the broker “transaction” is becoming less important in terms of the way clients actually see the value provided by their agent or broker.

As such, brokers need to help clients “understand what is possible” — from benefit plan construction, to engaging communications with employees, to risk financing alternatives such as self-funding or using private exchanges for employee health care.

“We engage our clients through our account executives or account managers, but we have over 500 products and services, so it gets pretty complicated and can be difficult for them to always have a clear understanding of everything we have to offer,” Fitzgerald said.

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Denise Ashford, vice president at Sweet & Baker Insurance Brokers in San Francisco, said clients routinely ask her and others on her team to interpret the ACA’s regulations, such as the impact of changes in the probationary period for employee eligibility for health care insurance.

In cases where clients are asking for that additional counsel, many smaller brokerages are at a competitive disadvantage because they don’t have the internal resources to provide the additional services that larger firms can, she said.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]