As we approach the end of 2012, many health insurance agents and brokers are thinking about upcoming trends in the health insurance industry and what they should consider in 2013.
Looking forward to 2013, health-care costs will continue to rise and employer margins will be stretched, according to Aflac. In addition, notes the company, confusion and lack of understanding about health-care reform will remain, and many businesses may be at a standstill when it comes to making new benefits decisions.
Resolutions for 2013
This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for agents and brokers to educate benefits decision makers on how to manage costs and offer the benefits that are necessary to retain and recruit top talent. Aflac recommends the following New Year’s Resolutions for agents and brokers:
- Knowledge is king. As long as the health-care discussion exists, human resources managers and business decision makers must not only reeducate themselves on new options, but understand also that employee participation is critical. Employees will be looking for benefits programs and products that address a possible income shortfall. What should agents and brokers do? According to Aflac, they should think beyond the product and take a solutions-based approach. Those who have the knowledge can differentiate themselves and benefit from delivering the right solutions.
- Consider a variety of products to fill in the gaps. As employees look for ways to stop any income loss, agents and brokers should take a holistic approach to offering benefits solutions, which includes health insurance options, as well as voluntary plans for their clients. By assessing their employers’ benefits offerings, agents and brokers can identify gaps and determine how voluntary insurance can help fill those gaps—including products they may not have considered in the past. In addition to life insurance, short-term disability and vision insurance, there has been an increase in the last few years for critical Illness plans, notes Aflac. But agents and brokers should consider hospital indemnity products as well. Providing a variety of products not only protects employees, it protects employers as well.
- Wellness works for the bottom line. As health-care costs continue to rise, the wellness of a firm’s employees is crucial for its employers. Studies show that wellness programs that encourage exercise, healthy eating, quitting smoking and regular doctor exams can lower insurance costs for both employers and employees, notes Aflac. In fact, the 2012 Aflac WorkForces Report found that among all businesses with a wellness program, 44 percent agree they are able to offer lower premiums as a result of their wellness program.
- Voluntary group sales are on the rise. According to Eastbridge, in 2011, group voluntary product sales surpassed individual voluntary sales for the first time (55 percent group vs. 45 percent individual). Aflac believes this trend will increase as agents and brokers have a great opportunity to present programs to employers so they can realize additional incentives without additional costs. As agents and brokers consider strategic ways to communicate voluntary benefits to employers, it’s important to remember voluntary group products as a cost-cutting option, notes Aflac.
By Ayo Mseka