Health-Care Reform Doesn’t Have
Agents Running for the Exits—Yet
To thrive and prosper in PPACA world, small-sized benefit shops
need to deliver boutique services to increase their client value
more actively and thoroughly discuss the
agency’s future plans.
Second, “if you are not into voluntary
benefits, you’d better be,” says Tillmar. It is
important for agents to increase their value
to their clients and find additional avenues
of revenue, whether that comes in the
form of contingent fees or some retainer.
BY MARK E. RUQUET
INDEPENDENT AGENTS worried about being relegated to a diminished role under the health-care reform law aren’t
about to throw in the towel over their
employee-benefits business just yet.
“I don’t think the mood is
overwhelmingly negative, but the concern
is the viability of selling the policies,” says
Campbell H. Wallace, government-affairs
counsel for the Professional Insurance
Agents associations of the states of NY, NJ,
CT and NH. “Producers have questions, but
they don’t fear the future.”
Some experts believe that one viable way
for agents to adapt and survive the impact
of the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act (PPACA) is by increasing the
services they offer clients.
Some are doing just that: Ramping up
their operations as advisors; charging fees
for their expert insight; and expanding
their benefits operations to include long-term care, life insurance, dental and other
And while some predicted a spike in
agencies with employee-benefit revenue
selling off that business as a result of
PPACA, that is not happening yet.
“There appears to be no huge increase
in [mergers and acquisitions] activity in the
past two or three years,” says Brian Deitz,
senior vice president for Reagan Consulting.
Instead of selling off the business, Deitz
says, agents are adding services where it
increases the value of the agency.
FRONT-LINE AGENTS: SOME ANGST OVER
Some employee-benefit agents are
complaining that they are not seeing
“enough thoughtful and positive energy”
spent planning for the eventual new reality
health-care reform will bring, says Arvid R.
“Dick” Tillmar, an agency consultant for
Tillmar Connect in Milwaukee, Wis.
Tillmar says that there are two things an
agency should be doing today to deal with
changes in health-care insurance. One is to
form an employee-benefits committee to
Lydia Jilek, head of voluntary products
for financial-services company ING in
Windsor, Conn., explains that in selling
these voluntary-benefits programs,
producers should view health-care reform
as an opportunity and not a burden.
She notes the price of health insurance
continues to rise—and in an effort to control
costs, employers are increasing deductibles.
Voluntary programs, Jilek says, can help
consumers. She cited an ING critical-illness
plan in which an individual can receive
$15,000 worth of coverage in addition to their
medical coverage in the event of a heart attack,
sudden blindness, stroke or other malady.
She stressed that these voluntary programs,
which can include accident insurance and
disability, act to fill in the gaps and cover
employees’ out-of-pocket expenses.
To prosper under PPACA, she observes,
agents and brokers need to “take on more
responsibility and increase their value
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