I had the opportunity last week to be in Washington DC and listen to a variety of voices concerning agents and brokers and how they fit in the health care reform act. It was actually surprising to me that almost unanimous agreement that the agent/broker is important for the new health care act to work. It seems that our lobbying efforts are starting to pay off. More than once I heard comments from both sides of the aisle that it is an extremely valuable service that we provide to the public. Senator Nelson’s office seemed especially interested in finding ways to help insure that professional agents are part of the solution. On the other hand, I didn’t feel the same way about our representative’s office. But even with the positive vibes coming from Washington, I still wonder if we are seen by the public as being of value. Usually the only time that our clients will acknowledge our value is when things don’t go exactly as they should. Unfortunately, or fortunately, things go well most of the time and all the client sees is higher rates and frustrating decisions. It is vital that we as an industry make it a point over the next year or two to inform and educate the public of the value of working with a professional insurance agent/broker. Will every client or carrier want to work with professionals? No, just like we have seen in the investment world, there are those who think they can do the research, pick the winners and have no need for advice. In most cases, they may even do alright, until tragedy strikes and they realize they picked the wrong “stock”. Trouble with health insurance, just like any other insurance, you really don’t know what you have until it is truly needed. It works just fine when nothing goes wrong. But to paraphrase Mr Buffett, “it is only when the tide goes out that you see who’s been swimming naked”. The trouble that health insurance brings is that a bad decision can follow you for a very long time. A bad decision can not only bankrupt you but even keep you from obtaining coverage in the future. So the next time you hear someone tell you that the agent/broker is not important, ask them why they use an attorney in legal matters? Isn’t the old adage, “A person who acts as their own attorney has a fool for a client”? I would like to change that to: “A person who acts as their own health insurance agent has a fool for a client”. This also goes with carriers that don’t feel it necessary to use professional agents/brokers to distribute their products. They feel all they have to do is put their products on a website or mass market them at a low price and people will flock to purchase. These types of carriers have never really understood the value of a professional agent. They don’t realize that the work begins with the sale, not ends. A professional agent/broker makes a promise and from that point forward, makes sure that things work smoothly. Answering questions, reselling benefits, and insuring that the plan accomplishes the client’s wishes are just a few of the daily routines.
So the next time that someone brings up the waste in health insurance and health care, stop and explain the value that you bring. Make it a point over the next couple of weeks to spread the word of how you bring value. Talk with your current clients and ask if they appreciate the work you do for them and ask them to become advocates of our value. We need voices from all sides to be touting the professional agent/broker and the good that we do for the public. If we don’t stand up and explain our value proposition, there are those who wish to see us disappear. Let’s don’t become obsolete.