The Health Insurance Buying Process, Part 6: Creating Consensus

Making any sort of business investment means entering into what can be an intimidatingly complex process — and buying health insurance is no exception. Taking on a new health plan, or even just making changes to an existing one, involves reflection and research, trade-offs and backtracking and negotiating input from stakeholders with competing priorities, among other complications that can keep you and your team busy for months.

This series breaks the health insurance buying process down into six manageable steps. While you may have to revisit each step multiple times before making a final decision, understanding the formula for successful buying can help your organization move more efficiently toward your ultimate goals — keeping employees healthy and happy while maximizing your budget.

You’ve reached the final step of the buying process. At this point, you’ve clearly identified why your organization needs a new health insurance plan, properly researched the small business health insurance options in your area and narrowed down your search to the best choice.

You know which way your organization should go — now you just need to make sure the rest of your buying group is on board.

The Goal of Creating Consensus

When creating consensus, your goal is to help your buying group navigate the research you’ve done and reach an agreement on the right health insurance plan. This is your chance to present the work you’ve done in each of the earlier stages and produce your recommendation for your top choice among all of the small business health insurance options you’ve encountered.

Before diving into the details, you should establish that everyone in the buying group has a shared understanding of what problem you’re trying to solve with the new health insurance plan. Is your No. 1 priority to lower costs for your organization? Is it to improve the quality of coverage for employees? If you have different ideas of what success looks like, it will be impossible to find a solution.

As you prepare to achieve consensus, keep the following strategies in mind.

  1. Anticipate objections. Because enrolling in a new health plan is such a major decision, expect some people to question any recommendation you make. Each of the previous steps in the buying process has left you with research that you can use to bolster your case. This is a good time to present all the small business insurance options in your area, including their strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve been working with a health insurance broker, they could also assist at this stage. Since they represent multiple insurers in your area, they can explain the different options and why the recommended plan is best for your organization.
  1. Define thresholds for agreement. A key part of the buying process is making trade-offs, especially when people have different ideas for what the best plan should look like. To get through these points of contention, set thresholds for what a plan should accomplish to be acceptable. It could need to hit a minimum number of key features requested by your employees, for instance. Keep in mind that a key part of the discussion will likely center on setting your health insurance budget. With health care costs rising, this could mean being forced to compromise on some of the benefits you were hoping to include. By setting conditions for what is acceptable for the entire buying group, you’ll more easily be able to move past objections.
  1. Find opportunity in debate. You shouldn’t worry if the buying group doesn’t immediately agree with your recommendation. In fact, it’s actually better to push for debate and see if you can uncover any hidden objections to what you’re proposing. Your business will be better off having an open discussion now than realizing someone has an objection after your company signs a contract.

Completing the Buying Process

The health insurance buying process isn’t always — or even often — linear. After your discussion with the buying group, you may realize that your original recommendation isn’t the right fit for your organization. Perhaps someone in the group added requirements that you weren’t aware of, or a strong objection forced you to rethink the goal of the plan. Good communication during the previous steps can often prevent this from happening. But if you need to backtrack, it will cause less friction overall to address these kinds of concerns now. With your past experience and research, you can move through the previous steps more quickly and return to the consensus creation phase in better shape.

If the buying group decides to move forward with your recommendation, put together a summary for the rest of your organization explaining the reasoning behind the decision. Even though they won’t be involved in actually purchasing the plan, they should be given the resources to understand why the buying group agreed with your plan choice. This summary should include frequently asked questions about health insurance and outline the basics of the plan.

Good benefits matter to a company’s success, and having the right health plan can be the difference between gaining top talent and losing the assets your organization already has. That’s why it’s so important to follow every step of the buying process to make the right decision. If you’ve made it this far, you can feel confident in your decision for the next health insurance plan.

Congratulations on completing the health insurance buying process! If you need to backtrack after the consensus creation stage or just want to review previous steps, click here to return to part five: validating your choice.

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