How to find a good health insurance agent
Professional health insurance brokers provide the expertise that can go a long way in finding the best plans for your business and guiding you to the right options. these people are authoritative experts who:
- know the market. can distinguish the best products from the merely adequate.
- know the law. are well versed in state and federal regulations that can expose your business to serious liability.
- They know the industry. They have met the licensing requirements, which requires them to stay current in the insurance market.
- shop for the right plans for you and provide you with one or more premium quotes.
- discuss alternatives with you so you have a clear understanding of your plan options.
- Implement the plan you select.
- maintain the account, including resolving billing, eligibility, and claims issues.
- ease the burden on your time by doing the “groundwork” for you.
- Get the most out of your coverage after you’ve purchased it.
- help with the renewal process.
- Contact associations that focus on health insurance or small business. they can often direct you to brokers. your state or local association of health insurers or chamber of commerce are just two examples.
- ask trusted advisors, like your accountant or lawyer.
- check with other business owners about their experiences.
- search brokers online. we discuss online brokers below.
- Ask about the dollar amount of any fees or commissions you will be charged, and ask if the agent/broker will add separate fees to the premium.
- clarify the services you will receive. for example, some will help you explain the plan to your employees; others won’t.
- Remember that an agent or broker becomes an extension of your staff. How well does this person work with your staff on a day-to-day basis?
- Discuss how the agent or broker will help you during the year. Will your representative be your primary contact, or is there another person responsible for servicing your plan?
- some insurers will not sell directly.
- Initial premium quotes are usually “representative”. actual rates are based on your company and employee population, so your premium rate may vary widely from the initial quote. you won’t know your actual premium until you go through the application and underwriting processes. this is also true when you work with a broker, whether traditional or web-based.
- You will be responsible for handling all service issues, including:
- initial registrations.
- annual enrollment periods.
- troubleshooting (billing, eligibility, claims, etc.).
- Three types of websites provide information for consumers shopping for health insurance: broker sites, health plan sites, and purchasing alliance sites.
- On broker sites, you have a variety of plans and insurers to choose from.
- Not all transactions can be completed online. with some transactions or brokers, you must complete the transaction by mail or phone.
It is possible to buy group insurance directly through the internet. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for insurance online:
brokers vs. agents
When we say “broker,” we mean a professional who can point you to products offered by a variety of companies. This is in contrast to a health insurance agent, who works with a single company and promotes that company’s products. Technically, both types of professionals are licensed as insurance “agents,” but we distinguish between them based on common parlance. If you don’t use a broker, you’ll probably work with an agent at every company you contact.
what will the runner do?
Your broker will help you:
broker commissions and fees
Brokers earn a basic commission for their services, and sometimes they also charge additional fees. commissions are generally based on a percentage of the annual premium and are included in the premium you pay. In other words, a broker’s basic commission is built into the insurer’s rates, so everyone pays them, whether they use a broker or not. on the other hand, fees may be charged for certain additional services. You’ll need to make sure you know what fees, if any, will be charged when you work with a broker. additional fees are usually paid directly to the broker.
find and choose a broker
You can find an insurance professional in your community in several ways:
When making a decision on whether to use a certain broker, be sure to keep the following in mind:
see “brokers and agents” for referral sources.
There are hundreds of broker-sponsored websites aimed at consumers shopping for health insurance. Broker sites fall into two categories: those sponsored by independent brokers whose primary interaction with customers is offline, and those operated by companies that specialize in selling insurance online. the two different types of sites have different strengths.
Independent broker sites may offer only limited online capabilities, but may provide more personalized service and administrative support throughout the year. brokers dedicated to the online channel may offer more extensive online capabilities but less ongoing support for billing, eligibility, and claims issues. These sites aim to have the majority of consumer interactions occur online, but also offer centralized telephone customer service to augment online services.
When shopping for insurance online, you should be aware that broker sites sometimes have trouble keeping benefit details up to date. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to one or two health plans, be sure to confirm coverage details (what’s covered and what’s not) on the health plan’s own website.
see “shopping for insurance online” for names and contact information.
go it alone
If you know the health plan you want and are comfortable with the world of insurance and its often confusing terminology, you can work directly with an insurance company salesperson or account manager. Keep in mind that when you take out insurance in this way: