Who Does My Benefits Broker Work For?


If you have to give the title of this blog 2 thoughts – then I would suggest you are feeling as if your benefits broker is not working for you and your organization.  Please continue reading.

It’s a valid question and one that I believe the answer to has shifted over the years for many employee benefits brokers and consultants.  The lines can be murky.  Do you feel the broker works for the insurance carriers, the company he/she/they work for or are you sure that your benefits broker is a staunch supporter of you and your company?  Let me shed some light on this.

Over the last 20 years, being an employee benefits broker has become more and more complicated.  More legislation, more complex pricing, more pharmacy related consulting, more technology and employee interfaces, more network pricing deals, more complicated financing…you get the point.  It’s not only about “the rates on a spreadsheet”.  Brokers need to be at the top of their game to be able to build and drive strategy for clients.  However, that can be exhausting. It’s a lot of work to be a good student of this business today!  But, that is what is needed for companies to be successful in finding a consultant to work with that will help them meet all of the objectives that benefit programs are designed to meet.

So, a couple of things I see happening.  A broker might let the insurance carrier reps do a lot of the heavy lifting. That’s sometimes called “delegation”.  In this scenario, it is also known as laziness or a lack of confidence.  When a broker brings an insurance carrier rep to the table for a meeting or the presentation looks like it was cut and pasted from other sources – of course you feel like the broker is working for the carrier!  The other secret is preferred compensation. Shhhhh.  It’s a secret.  However, many brokers will only work with and present to clients carrier products and solutions that drive the most revenue for them and their firm.  If your broker only shares with you one or two solutions from the same carriers – that may not be a red flag in and of itself IF……they have the full competitive landscape available to share with you in the latest marketing.  

If a broker tells you,” no one in my firm has ever done it that way”, or “that’s not possible” and I can list a lot of other phrases, that typically means that they have not seen that solution and/or their firm doesn’t have the technical expertise to support that solution and/or someone up the food chain has told them “we” don’t do this for clients.  That’s when you might feel that their own company and policies are more important than trying to find the right solutions for your company.  Now, of course I’m not talking about asking them to do anything nefarious (love that word).  But if they are not willing to go out on a limb and do the right thing for you – the customer – and fight the internal fight – then they are “workin for the man” and not you.

You know if you have a “staunch supporter” by your side.  They call you out of the blue or send you an email on something that they have just been made aware of that could be a great solution for your organization.  They make you aware of different ideas that can help save money and improve engagement at most meetings.  They fight the internal good fight when their leadership has told them “we can’t do this”.  They find a way to get it doneThey lead youThey partner with you.  They lock arms with you to make sure that every dollar that is spent on healthcare in your organization is accounted for and makes sense.  They are also actively engaged.  Meaning that you see them several times a year – not just at renewal time.

So, how would you rate your broker partner?  Remember, most firms have the bright shiny objects that they dangle in front of you.  The “free” stuff that all companies like – technology, wellness programs, digital communication tools.  Ok.  So what?  If you are evaluating your relationship on the free stuff then you are looking at it wrong.  The person and his/her own skill set to drive innovation, set and meet objectives, lead others and partner and deploy those “shiny objects” meaningfully is the broker you should be looking for or wanting.  I hope you have one.  It’s too expensive not to.  If you don’t, ping me and I can help you evaluate and give you next steps.

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