Choosing a health insurance broker is an important step in implementing a new health insurance plan for your workforce. Having access to an expert who can help you choose a plan that’s right for your company and deploy it across the organization can be an enormous benefit for small businesses that might not have that expertise in house.
But while there are many health insurance brokers in the marketplace, choosing the one who will be the best fit for you and your business is easier said than done. Before you sign up with an agent, you’ll want to get a better picture of who this person is and how their service works.
Here are five key questions you should ask any prospective insurance broker so you can understand how they’ll address the potential issues that could arise for your organization.
1. Are You Independent or Company-Specific?
It’s important to know if you’ll be working with an independent broker or one employed by a specific provider. This will directly affect the health insurance options you have to choose from.
A company-specific broker will try to steer you toward that provider’s plans, while an independent agent will present you with a wide array of choices from a variety of insurance companies. On the other hand, a broker working for a company may be able to offer more competitive rates. Do your due diligence on this issue, and decide on what’s most important to you: getting the best possible pricing on a certain provider’s plans or having the widest range of options available to you.
2. What Are Your Fees?
Insurance brokers typically earn commissions from the health plan on their transactions, and it’s important to understand how these work. Ask them, for example, if there will be any separate fees added to the premium that you will need to pay.
3. What Services Will My Company Receive?
Be sure to get a clear picture of what’s included in the scope of services provided by the prospective broker. For instance, are they merely selling you a plan, or will they help with the rollout? Will they assist during open enrollment to explain the plan you choose to your employees?
Ask for a written list or breakdown of their their services and if any of the services have additional fees associated. Having clarity on this point will prevent you from unexpectedly needing to contract a third party for services you thought you had already paid for.
4. What Assistance Will You Provide?
Choosing a health care plan isn’t just a one-time transaction; you and your employees have to entrust that provider with your insurance needs on a day-to-day basis. A broker who views helping you choose a plan as a one-and-done deal may not be the best option.
Ask what assistance, if any, the broker will provide after you’ve rolled out your new plan. Does the relationship end when the plan year starts, or will the agent be available to you throughout the year should any issues arise? Will you have a dedicated account manager? If not, who should you contact if you or your employees have any questions during the plan year about coverage, premiums, deductibles and the like?
If you’re not happy with the ongoing services the broker can provide, keep shopping.
5. Are You ACA-Savvy?
In the age of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is no longer simply a benefit that businesses provide to keep their employees happy — it’s a legal requirement for almost all organizations, and technical compliance failures could cost your company significant sums in penalties.
As such, it’s essential that any broker you enlist be familiar with the regulations surrounding the ACA.
If you ask your potential health insurance broker these questions and get a clear understanding of what to expect if and when issues arise, you can be confident you’ve chosen a trustworthy agent who will help you find the best-fit insurance plan for your company.
This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.
Avi Sinensky is an attorney at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP in New York, where his practice focuses on corporate and employee benefits law. He advises clients on strategies to overcome Affordable Care Act challenges and to capitalize on related opportunities.