The Most Powerful Person in Your Life You’ve Never Heard Of

Aug
24
Tue

It’s November—the time to pick your healthcare plan for the next year is here, albeit in a process that seemed dated in the 90s. You review 20 different screens of predetermined selections with an overview of what happens to you if faced with an emergency, including paycheck implications and more. 

There is one person who leads all these behind-the-scenes decisions in your life, and you probably don’t know their name. This individual is not your CFO or a member of the HR team; in fact, this person doesn’t even work at your company. Few people realize that their company’s leadership hires and pays a benefits advisor or insurance broker every year to help design and select these elements of your life.

 Your company’s insurance broker helps decide the following:

  • What is withheld from your monthly paycheck for healthcare, benefits & retirement
  • What percent of your medical expenses you pay
  • What happens when an emergency affects you or your family
  • What happens if you have a debilitating injury or worse
  • The type of PTO and vacation plan you have
  • What your retirement plan looks like

Who your company chooses as an insurance broker has significantly more impact on the cost and quality of benefits you receive as an employee rather than the actual insurance company. In the larger U.S. markets, most big insurance carriers are in-network with the majority of provider systems. I can think of a handful of outliers like Kaiser, VA or Intermountain that have narrower network products. Still, for 95% of America your insurance carrier isn’t the differentiator—it is your actual benefit plan, and your insurance broker is that plan’s driver.

It is time to put a spotlight on insurance brokers, because they are the ones who control the healthcare and benefit decisions a company makes. Let’s be clear: There are exceptional insurance and benefits advisors who fight hard for the employers and employees they represent. Is the person managing your company’s benefits one of these individuals?

A few months ago, I was talking to a large insurance carrier and brought up a specific broker’s name. They laughed, saying “Yes, we know Blake. Every time one of his employers has an issue, we hear from him immediately.” What struck me is how that type of relationship is something of an outlier. Consider: Does your insurance broker do that for you or for anyone else at your company? For most, the answer is no.

This industry—and who an employer chooses as its insurance broker—has long been a “referral and relationship” business. Consistently I hear stories of “he was my college roommate” or “she is a childhood friend.” I believe this choice, which drives a sizeable portion of your company’s expenses and your personal benefits, should be driven by merit rather than by relationships. The power your company chooses to place in this person’s hands matters.

So, ask. Ask your employer, specifically your HR department orb CFO, about your insurance broker. Ask how that relationship came to be and why. Find out the name of the person who plays such a profound role in shaping you and your family’s future. You deserve to know.

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Hungry for more exclusive content? Check out the latest on the Mployer Advisor blog or read on for what happens if your business doesn't offer health insurance

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