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Employer Health Insurance Broker vs. Employee Benefits Advisor

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Published On: August 28, 2019

There are many challenges to overcome when an organization is determining what employer health insurance plan is the best fit for their specific needs. However, there are professionals who can help guide you through the process, such as health insurance brokers, employer benefits advisors, and consultants. What are each of these roles and how do they differ?

To help navigate the potential advantages and pitfalls in their paths, employers and their HR departments have historically turned to outside employer health insurance brokers in order to present them with options and help advise the decision-making process. As the employer health insurance market has in many ways become increasingly complicated over the years (and because there can be a perceived conflict of interest with regard to broker commission structure), additional guidance roles have been established to fill the informational gaps.

Those roles are often labeled employer health insurance advisor/consultant or employee benefits advisors, but - as with employer health insurance brokers – their function is guiding employers toward their ideally optimized health and benefit plan coverage. Given that all of these labels accompany a similar advisory role, one of the main differences is how each may be compensated – although there is a great deal of overlap there, as well.

What is an Employer Health Insurance Broker?

Traditionally, employer health insurance brokers have been the primary means through which companies have attained employer health insurance benefits for their employees. Brokers often work directly with one or more insurance providers and will typically be required at some point in the coverage process even when working with an outside advisor or consultant to build the coverage plan for the employer.

  • Primary function: Analyze the circumstances of a given employer and provide options to resolve their employer health insurance needs.
  • Payment and compensation: Typically commission-based, though there are exceptions.
  • Differentiating factor: Brokers are licensed professionals who work directly with one or more health insurance providers. The options they are able to provide an employer may be limited by their relationships with affiliate insurance providers, but they are also the most direct way to access those insurance providers given that employee benefits consultants and advisors will still need to go through an employer health insurance broker in order to execute the plan.

What is an Employee Benefits Advisor?

Employee benefits advisors primarily serve a complementary role to brokers in an employer’s effort to attain health insurance coverage for the company employees.

In fact, after working with a client to determine the ideal scope of coverage for that client, employee benefits advisors will then assist the client in evaluating potential brokers in order to assess which broker can provide the coverage that best fits the client’s needs.

  • Primary function: Analyze the circumstances of a given employer and provide options to resolve their employer health insurance needs, including making connections with relevantly specialized brokers and vetting choices in accordance with their clients’ goals.

  • Payment and compensation: Typically fee-based, though commission-based and other arrangements are also possible.

  • Differentiating factor: In addition to employer health insurance coverage, employee benefits advisors may take a broader approach to optimizing employee benefits plans and have more tools at their disposal than employer health insurance coverage alone when helping an employer put together a comprehensive benefits package uniquely suited to their organizational needs.

What is an Employee Health Insurance Consultant?

Similar to an Employee Benefits Advisor, Employee Health Insurance Consultants serve a complementary role to brokers. In many ways, the designations of benefits advisors and consultants can be interchangeable, although such designations can be used to convey distinctions between fee structure or the depth of background analysis involved in general.

  • Primary function: Analyze the circumstances of a given employer and provide options to resolve their employer health insurance needs, including making connections with relevantly specialized brokers and vetting choices in accordance with their clients’ goals.
  • Payment and compensation: Can be either fee or commission-based.
  • Differentiating factor: As a term, employer benefit consultant can for the most part be used interchangeably with employer benefit advisor, although using ‘consultant’ may imply a greater degree of emphasis on the initial conditional analysis while using ‘advisor’ typically places more focus on the advisement with regard to selecting from among employer health insurance coverage and brokerage options going forward.

How to Find a Good Employee Benefits Advisor

When selecting someone to help guide your organization through the procurement of employer health insurance – whether it be a broker, an employee benefits advisor, or a consultant – the key questions to ask are what relationships and specialization does this person have that may either limit or expand the options that they can present me with as a result.

Also, it is important to understand how this person will be compensated for their work and how that incentive structure may in turn affect the advice you receive, how reliable you feel that it is, and with what confidence you can assure others in your organization that you have achieved the optimum result.

Additionally, in the process of selecting a broker, employee benefits advisor, or consultant to work with, you may find it advisable to search among professionals in those fields who operate locally and/or who specialize in your industry if there are industry-specific factors that may require special consideration.

In fact, you may wish to contact such a professional to help determine if there are industry-specific considerations that you may be able to benefit from and to which you are otherwise currently unaware.

You may even want to contact the brokers, consultants, and/or employee benefits advisors who have been working with those tiresome competitors who keep poaching your talent – or perhaps you’d be better served by contacting the advisors and brokers of the competitor with such thoughtful and comprehensive benefits packages that their employees can’t seem to be poached.

Find the Right Insurance Broker Today

Luckily, searching for the right broker, consultant, or employee benefits advisor to best serve the needs of your organization is easier than ever before through harnessing the power of public databases. Not only can you refine your search by a variety of different criteria, you will also have access to an algorithmically compiled rating system, thereby ensuring that the professional you choose to work with is verifiably capable of meeting your needs.

With such powerful tools at your disposal - despite that the employer health insurance and benefit plan market may seem murkier than ever - finding the perfect broker, consultant, or employer benefits advisor to suit your organization’s needs requires little more than a few clicks to get the process started.

Mployer Advisor helps employers find top-rated insurance brokers, advisors, and consultants. Our listing database also showcases customer reviews and feedback to help you compare and evaluate different brokers. Start your search today.

Find brokers near you.

Looking for more exclusive content? Check out what’s trending on the Mployer Advisor blog or read more about insurance brokers here.

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Weller Emmons

Vice President of Operations, Mployer Advisor


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