Selasa, 22 November 2011

How Will Health and Life Insurance Brokers and Carriers Survive

For decades the Health and Life (H&L) Insurance Markets - Including the Insurance Carriers, Brokers/Agents, and Service Providers - have reluctantly accepted change on an Evolutionary Basis. While competition was stiff, most parties were enjoying a stable and profitable marketplace utilizing the same basic: Plans, Programs and Services; Product Designs; and Marketing Strategies. Their Target Markets - Employers, Employees, and Individuals - were relatively complacent and satisfied with the limited information they were provided through Carrier's Media Promotions and the Brokers and Agents Knocking at their Doors.

Here is a sample of the Evolutionary changes that were reluctantly accepted by the Carriers and Brokers/Agents over the years:

HMOs - Originally focused on promoting early detection and wellness.
Cafeteria Plans - Employers offering Employees workplace Benefit Choices.
Voluntary/Worksite Benefit Choices - Providing Employees the freedom of "Choice" at the own Discretion and Cost on a Payroll Deducted Basis.
Section 125 of the IRSC - Pre-Taxing Qualified Benefits making the Plans more affordable by reducing the bite of Income and Payroll Taxes.
Reimbursement Accounts - Medical, Dependent Care, and Transportation/Parking Plans that assist in reducing the cost of essential Plans, Products and Services for Employees. These are tax-advantaged plans.
Consumer Driven Heath Plans (CDHPs) - Health Insurance Plans that Promote and Support Employees and Individuals in becoming better "Consumers" of Health Care.
HRAs and HSAs - To Implement with the HDHPs providing a savings component to promote Consumerism.
HDHPs - High Deductible Health Plans that support the HSAs and HRAs.
Gap Plans - To assist in off-setting the Risk of High Deductible Health Plans.
Ancillary Benefits - Non-Insurance Based Employee Benefits that provide additional Employee "Choices" and often Reduce the Costs of Goods and Services for the Employees.
Wellness Plans - That benefit the Employers and Employees by improving Individual Health and in Reducing Health Care Costs.
For a number of reasons the days of Evolutionary Change are giving way to Revolutionary Upheaval! These include:

> Skyrocketing Costs for Health Care!

> Skyrocketing Increases in Health Insurance Plan Premiums for Employers, Employees, and Individuals!

> Disruptive Change promoted by Entrepreneurs and a Competitive Marketplace!

> The Internet and Search Engines providing Employers, Employees, and Individuals expanded access to Plans, Programs, and Services - as well as their Providers - on a more competitive basis.

> Social/Business Media Driven by the Internet is being utilized by Brokers and Carriers to cost-effectively reach Employers, Employees, and Individuals with information about and access to their Plans, Programs, and Services.

> Federal and State intervention with Reform - including PPACA, MLRs, etc.

> Public Demand for Change!

What are the Revolutionary and Disruptive Changes being faced by Brokers and Carriers?

Insurance and Benefits Industry Reform by Government - Federal and State intervention in the Insurance and Benefits Industries! Whether Obamacare or Romneycare - as they are amended - regulations are inevitable and will be extremely Disruptive!
MLR (Medical Loss Ratios) - in one form or another - will negatively impact on the compensation package for Brokers to hypothetically reduce the Premium Costs.
State and the Federal Exchanges - will become the access point for millions of U.S. Citizens for accessing Health Insurance Coverage.
Health Care Coverage Navigators - Internet Portals, Individuals, and/or Organizations providing information about the Exchange based Plans - with some method of compensation (probably not commission based). Navigators will provide the guidance required by Individuals, Employers, and Employees to make their Health Plan Coverage decisions.
Insurance Carriers, Brokers, Large Employers, and Third Parties will develop Private Exchanges including: Mandated Plans; Innovative Plan Designs; Self-Funded Plans; HDHPs; HRAs; HSAs; Gap Plans; Voluntary/Worksite Plans; Ancillary Plans; and more - all on a Defined Contribution (DC) Platform.
Technology Companies Providing Platforms for Private Exchanges and Defined Contribution Models will become the hub for Carriers, Brokers, Employers and Employees for providing and accessing Plans, Programs, and Services.
Companies Providing Education, Communication, Enrollment, and Data Management Capacities will integrate with the Technology Companies to better accommodate Private Exchanges and Defined Contribution.
Insurance Carriers will "Mass Customize" Plans and Programs - that are in compliance with the Federal or State Mandated "Base Plans" that will provide additional coverage for those who desire and can afford a more robust Health Insurance Plan.
Voluntary Benefits and Ancillary Benefits - will continue to dominate the Insurance Markets as all Benefits and Insurance Plans become Voluntary within Private Exchanges within a Defined Contribution Strategy.
Broker Commissions - will continue to be reduced by Carriers for the Health Insurance Plans based on MLRs.
The Internet - will become the Distribution Channel of Choice for Carriers attempting to replace Brokers as the direct contact with Clients and Potential Clients.
Social/Business Media - will continue to grow in importance as the interface between Carriers and Brokers with potential Markets - Employers, Employees, and Individuals.
Brokers Compensation Models Will Change - they will be forced into "Fee Based" Compensation replacing the traditional "Commission Based" Models. Employers, Employees, and Individuals who need assistance in making decisions about Insurance and Non-Insurance Based Plans, Programs, and Services will pay Fees to Brokers for their assistance.
Employer's Participation in offering Benefits - will utilize Private Exchanges and Defined Contribution (DC) Strategies to continue to offer Employee Benefits and remain Competitive.
Brokers Will Leave or Change Their Industry Focus - many experienced Health Insurance Brokers will not be willing to accept change or have the flexibility required to survive - they will retire or go out-of-business.
Consolidation of Mid-Sized and Larger Brokers - as Brokers shift from Traditional Norms to delivering Benefit Packages based on Private Exchanges, Defined Contribution (DC), and a Fee Based Compensation Model, many Organizations will Partner, Acquire, or be Acquired to remain Competitive.
Consolidation of Insurance and Benefits Carriers - as they seek to leverage their Assets, Merge Client Bases, Reduce Marketing and Advertising Costs, and Strengthen Balance Sheets they will Merge.
Employers, Employees, and Individuals will Gain Control - they will be more demanding of Carriers and Brokers to provide Plans, Programs, and Services to meet their needs within a framework of Private Exchanges and Defined Contribution Strategies.
Government Entities at the Federal and State Levels - will continue to increase their control of, and participation in, the Insurance and Benefits Industries.
A Single Payor System and Nationalize Healthcare - will continue to be the ultimate goal of the Congress and Federal Agencies.

Rabu, 02 November 2011

Why Insurance Agents Should Have a Dedicated Web Site

Visitors expect it

The ever expansive attributes of the web have made it more or less mandatory for serious business professionals to host their own sites. People often tend to search on the net first to look for insurance related information. If they cannot find your site, they would invariably end up looking for information from a competing agency. Also in many cases customers decide to directly contact the agent only if they are happy with what they have just read on the site. Hence it is crucial for all agents to have their own web site so that all potential customers can be properly routed to them.

They are more professional

Even if the agent works from a condo, a good looking site will lend you an air of credibility that can do wonders for business. People often have a tendency to assume that a good looking and well informed site correlates to a big and professional insurance firm. Having your own insurance site has another added benefit as well. You can have your e-mail id extensions with your url ID rather than using regular service providers like Gmail or Yahoo. These small details go a long way towards building your credibility as a reliable insurance agent.

Increasing relevance of buying insurance online

It is way easier for users to buy insurance policies online compared to having to run up and down various agencies. There are several insurance sites on the net that cater to specific geographically marked states and cities which makes it highly convenient for users to get quotes and other information. They can then compare this with what is being offered by other competing agencies and make informed decisions based to that effect.

Your competitor has a site

All insurance companies have realized the need and the scope behind hosting a well developed site on the internet. The more you delay, the better the chances of your competitors towards acquiring a sizeable share of prospective clients.

Market expansion

A website allows the agent to expand their opportunities and reach out to a wider audience. Put in some effort to develop key word rich content and market the site online using SEM techniques. This will help you rise up the ranks in search engine queries and will bring a considerable amount traffic to your site. You can have all the necessary contact information posted on the site so that the client can get in touch if they are interested.

Web sites that are quote featured enjoy greater flexibility and are more popular with users. It's easier to make comparisons with other schemes and the visitor does not have to download multiple documents which can become tedious and annoying to sit and sift through.

Social media integration

It is easier to promote your insurance products on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can add your web site details which visitors or community members can check for reference. You can also start your own company profile pages which will give you more scope and exposure on these social platforms. Happy visitors can 'like' the web pages of your sites which further increase the influx of visitors to your web site.