These days, more and more insurance is being sold online or over the phone. This is certainly a more efficient way to do business. It allows agents to sell business without ever talking to the client. Quoting and enrollment tools like Quotit can help brokers put their business on auto-pilot; brokers can make sales even when they’re not at work.
Unfortunately, not every client likes to do business this way, and that’s especially true of business owners shopping for group health coverage for their employees. This type of sale usually requires a face-to-face meeting and a good amount of consultation to find the right solution for the client. The same is true of Medicare business. While more people are signing up for coverage over the phone, many clients prefer an in-person meeting so their son or daughter can attend and help them make a decision.
Insurance agents get leads from a variety of sources.
Everyone likes getting a raise, right? The problem is, business owners tend not to think of the money they make in the same way an employee does. Employees trade time for a paycheck and measure their earnings in terms of rate of pay – the wage they earn per hour or the salary they earn per year. Business owners, on the other hand, invest their time, money, and energy into the business in hopes of earning a profit. The harder they work, the more they can earn – at least that’s the goal.
However, it might be helpful for agents to adjust their thinking about the money they make. What if you thought a little more like an employee and measured your success in terms of dollars per hour? If you do that, then you can change your goal from earning a handsome profit to increasing the amount you make on an hourly basis, and that’s a lot easier to control.
In the state of Texas, the Department of Insurance recently sent out a bulletin warning health insurance agents and third-party administrators (TPAs) about the dangers of “assisting a company engaging in the unauthorized business of insurance.” While the bulletin was specific to Texas agents, it’s a message that brokers across the country should take to heart.
The letter, dated August 12, 2019, explains that “New types of health insurance or insurance like products are being marketed to…consumers by unlicensed and unauthorized companies.” Specifically, the letter says, “companies may claim to be a health care sharing ministry or other innovative business without complying with the requirements” that would exempt them from state regulations.
Those who oppose the single-payer health insurance plan promoted by Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential campaign, and supported by most Democratic candidates in the 2020 race, often argue that competition is good for the market; it helps improve quality and reduce costs because consumers shop with their wallets. Many insurance agents would agree with this assessment: competition, in most cases, is good for consumers. However, what is often left unsaid in the conversation about competition in the health insurance industry is that it doesn’t really exist, at least not to the extent that we would like to believe it does.
The world is changing. More and more people are working from home, doing side jobs, and trying desperately not to spend their lives “working for the man.” How much is the freelance workforce growing? A lot. According to a recent report by Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services, there are “approximately 57.3 million freelancers in the US currently contributing $1.4 trillion to the economy,” and “it is anticipated that freelancers and independent workers will make up the majority of the workforce in the US within 10 years.”
A presidential election year can seem like a time of uncertainty. The current President is trying to hang on to his job while other candidates—in this case, a couple dozen other candidates—are busy explaining all the things that they will change if they are able to unseat him. Other elected officials are up for re-election as well, so there are plenty of proposals and promises and criticisms and sound bites. With all of the noise, it’s easy to understand why people are unsure about what will happen in the months and years ahead.
Interestingly, though, the period we’re in right now, about 15 months before the 2020 election, is actually a time of stability in the health insurance industry. Why? Because very few major changes are likely to happen between now and the election. Everyone is talking about what they want to do, but in the meantime they’re not doing much of anything at all. We have a divided Congress that can’t agree on most issues and certainly not on health care, so there’s almost no chance that a bill expanding or repealing the ACA will make it to the President’s desk.
Back in the good old days—just a few short years ago—it was possible to sell clients a health plan that checked all of the boxes:
No more. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find a plan that meets even one of these criteria that are important to clients; meeting all three is nearly impossible.
Employees love Flexible Spending Accounts, or FSAs. These tax-advantaged accounts give them the ability to set aside tax-free dollars to pay for qualified medical expenses, similar to an HSA. Unlike an HSA, though, an FSA can be paired with any type of health plan, including plans with up-front copayments for doctor visits and prescriptions. The drawback, of course, is the “use it or lose it” rule; employees whose FSA contributions exceed their annual medical costs must either go on a spending spree at the end of the year or risk losing any unspent funds.
In 2013, to help reduce this risk and encourage more workers to participate in their company’s Flexible Spending Account, the IRS issued Notice 2013-71, which “permits § 125 cafeteria plans to be amended to allow up to $500 of unused amounts remaining at the end of a plan year in a health FSA to be paid or reimbursed to plan participants for qualified medical expenses incurred during the following plan year, provided that the plan does not also incorporate the grace period rule.”
That’s a long sentence, but here are the three most important points.
Back in 2007, three years before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, Michael Moore released his film “Sicko” to highlight what he saw as the flaws in our for-profit healthcare system and advocate for a single-payer, Medicare-for-All solution in the United States. Moore was a supporter of H.R. 676, the Medicare-for-All bill introduced by Senator John Conyers (D-MI) that was picking up some steam at the time.
Medicare for All was embraced by then presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who at the time was a senator from Ohio. Kucinich was a fringe candidate who ended up with about one percent of the vote in the 2008 election, but he never waivered from his calls for a single-payer health care system in this country.