Health insurance options for businesses are complex and are becoming even more so. Some employers choose to select health plans on their own, but many others seek out professional help from a health insurance broker to make sense of it all. If you are considering working with a broker, here are the steps to take:

  1. Ask around. Your peers are often the best source of reference. Ask fellow business owners about who they use and what they like and don’t like. You are likely to find a good fit by obtaining referrals from businesses of a similar size and employee base: If you run a 75-employee manufacturing company, you may not want to use the same broker as the 500-person software firm down the road.
  2. Interview a few. Brokers are in the sales and customer-service business, so good ones will be happy to spend time with you to understand your needs and see if there is a good fit. Don’t hesitate to ask the seemingly simple questions; it’s your chance for a free education.
  3. Figure out what you really need. Once you’ve spent time with some brokers, step back to think about what needs you have. Do you want lots of plan choices for your employees? Are you most focused on customer service? Do you need a dedicated account representative? Is price the paramount concern? Pick the broker that best matches your needs.
  4. Do some diligence. Before settling on a health insurance broker, do a bit of digging. Most people are honest and reputable, but it’s a wise idea to check. State insurance commissions maintain disciplinary records, which are accessible to the public, and you can always perform an Internet search of the broker’s name to see what comes up. Don’t forget to get two or three references.
  5. Get your money’s worth. The broker’s job does not end once a plan has been selected. Brokers should provide ongoing customer service and advice during the year, and the planning for the following year should start at least four months ahead of time.

David E. Williams is president of Health Business Group, a strategy consulting firm serving clients in technology-enabled health care services, pharmaceuticals, biotech, medical devices and software. He is frequently quoted in the media on the business of health care and is the author of the Health Business Blog. David sits on the board of both private health care companies and nonprofits.