Why brokers should be afraid of Amazon & Co.’s new venture

This article was published on September 5, 2018 on BenefitsPro, written by Kevin Trokey.

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Source: BenefitsPro

You don’t have to scroll very far in your social media feeds to see posts of outrage and calls for transparency aimed at the players in today’s health care game. The waste, fraud and at times seemingly criminal behavior of some carriers, pharma and providers is a travesty. All of them need to be called to account for their contributions to this mess.

Oh, it’s happening sweetheart

The Bezos-Buffett-Dimon (BBD) health care venture is heating up. While I have serious doubts about their ability to solve the crisis (I believe that will happen on a much smaller, more local scale), there is one thing that this trio will certainly bring: visibility and outrage.

I predict BBD will open the floodgates of horror stories from victims of the travesty that has befallen our health care system. We will see and hear, at the most publicly visible level, stories we are already sharing within our relatively small inner circles on a daily basis:

  • Lives lost due to inaccessibility of care.
  • Couples who opt for divorce so their child can get the care they need.
  • Artificially inflated insurance premiums that have stifled business growth.

I can feel you getting excited. I can hear you saying, “Bring it on, BBD!”

Be careful what you wish for

The spotlight will be shone into every perceived dark corner of the system, with a particular intensity on anyone seen as a middleman. If you aren’t concerned yet, you should be. Make no mistake: benefits advisors will be next.

I know most of you work your asses off every day with the best interests of your clients in mind. I know the decisions you help your clients make are some of the most complex they face. I get it.

But, perception is reality, and you need to brace yourself for the picture BBD will paint. Be prepared to deal with the perception of being nothing more than a distribution channel for carriers—a middleman.

The carriers are going to be a big target. But when your compensation ties you directly to them, when you are contractually tied to them more closely than you are to your clients, it is going to be very difficult to separate yourself from the carriers.

No time to spare

Now is the time to re-engineer your business to separate yourself from the carriers and to formally serve your clients. I get that there are significant changes you will have to make, many of which are not going to be easy. But there are a couple of things that will take you in that direction.

  1. Sit down with each of your clients and have a stewardship meeting where you explain very clearly the various ways in which you bring them value.
  2. Have a transparent conversation about how much you are being paid for delivering that value. If possible, let them know you will be asking the carriers to remove your commissions and switch to a fee-based arrangement.
  3. Educate them about what is broken about the system and the solutions we are starting to see. Let them know you will be there to help them take advantage of every solution that makes sense.

These may be difficult discussions to have but I promise you, they are nowhere near as difficult as the discussion you will have to have if you wait for BBD to tell the story on your behalf.

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