COLUMBUS, Ga., June 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Due to uncertainty about the evolving health care landscape, brokers found themselves at a crossroads of either redefining their role in the industry or exiting it entirely. In fact, nearly half (49 percent) of brokers at least somewhat agree that they've been considering leaving the industry and 67 percent of brokers at least somewhat agree that they've seen many of their peers exit the industry in the past year according to the 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report for Brokers. However, this new study released today by Aflac (AFL), the leading provider of voluntary insurance in the United States, shows that health care reform is presenting new opportunities for those choosing to stay in the business.
Conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, the online survey of more than 300 brokers found that more than one-third (36 percent) completely/strongly agree that health care legislation represents an opportunity for them and their business and half (50 percent) say they completely/strongly agree that they have confidence in their firm and the industry's future.
"It's encouraging that many brokers have a positive mindset about their business and clearly see the opportunity in the marketplace," said Tye Elliott, vice president of Core Broker Sales at Aflac. "Many are adapting to the changing health care environment by expanding their focus to be more consultative and to offer a wider range of products and services. Our data shows that this has been a successful strategy as many businesses are now relying more heavily on their partners for guidance."
Brokers Are Needed Now More Than Ever
Despite many brokers exiting the industry, employers are relying on experts more than ever to help them make smart benefits decisions. In fact, employers have steadily increased their use of brokers over the past three years, with year-over-year use of brokers growing from 56 percent in 2011 to 61 percent in 2013 to 64 percent in 2014. Some of that increase could be related to employers' lack of preparedness for health care reform. The Aflac study found that:
- Nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) brokers at least somewhat agree that their clients aren't prepared for health care reform and nearly one-third (31 percent) completely/strongly agree with that statement.
- 27 percent of brokers named "client uncertainty about health care reform" as the top issue for their firm right now.
- Almost half (45 percent) of companies will be relying more on brokers or insurance providers to help make changes to benefits due to the changing health care environment.
Growing Business Through Voluntary Insurance Benefits
Brokers are going beyond their usual product offerings and taking advantage of new avenues to achieve success. In the next 12 months, about 4 in 10 (38 percent) brokers say the proportion of voluntary insurance benefits they sell will increase, and 53 percent say they plan to increase their firm's revenue from voluntary insurance benefits. Brokers who have leveraged this strategy are seeing it pay off. The study showed:
Brokers who offer voluntary insurance benefits are 35 percent more likely to have their client base increase over the past 12 months than those who don't offer voluntary insurance benefits. In addition, brokers who offer voluntary insurance are 12 percent more likely to be maintaining and/or growing sales, while brokers who don't offer voluntary are more than twice as likely to have declining sales.
These new products come as employers are shifting additional health care costs to their employees who may not be ready to assume that responsibility. The Aflac study found more than half of companies (56 percent) increased employees' copayments and/or share of premiums in 2013. To address this issue, brokers are encouraging clients to consider offering voluntary benefits.
- 64 percent of brokerage firms say the reason they include voluntary insurance benefits as part of their portfolio is to satisfy the needs of their clients' employees.
- The majority of workers (63 percent) agree they see a growing need for voluntary insurance benefits compared to previous years.
Elliott adds, "The advantages of offering voluntary insurance benefits can have far-reaching impact both for brokers and for their client's workers. Considering almost half (42 percent) of American employees say they are not at all, or not very prepared to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with a serious illness or injury, offering voluntary benefits gives workers a meaningful safety net."
Developing New Services to Respond to Market Realities
Not only are brokers achieving growth by increasing their product offerings, they're also taking advantage of new revenue opportunities created by health care reform and other changes to the health insurance environment. Brokers are now creating consulting practices, acting as navigators for insurance products and helping clients purchase policies from both private and public exchanges.
- 78 percent of brokers at least somewhat agree they have expanded their consulting services, or created a consulting practice, in the past year.
- More than one-third (35 percent) of brokers say they are now functioning as a navigator for insurance products handled through an exchange.
- 38 percent of brokers are currently functioning as a producer for insurance products handled through an exchange.
To learn more about the current broker mindset revealed by the 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report for Brokers and access study data fact sheets based on brokerage size, visit Aflac.com/brokerawr.
About the Study
The 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report was conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac.
The Employer Survey was conducted online within the United States between January 7, 2014, and January 23, 2014, among 1,856 benefits decision-makers. Results were representative of U.S. companies with at least three employees, based on company size (number of employees) and industry. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.
The Employee Survey was conducted online within the United States between January 7, 2014, and January 27, 2014, among 5,209 employed adults ages 18 and older who are employed full or part time at a company with three or more employees and not retired. The first 3,124 interviews were nationally representative, while the remaining 2,085 interviews were conducted among the top 20 DMAs – 100 interviews per DMA. Results were weighted as needed to match U.S. demographics and to enable year over year trending. No theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.
The Broker Survey was conducted online within the United States between January 8, 2014, and January 15, 2014, among 314 employed insurance brokers and producers or financial advisors. Results are representative of U.S. broker firms with at least three employees serving companies of all sizes. No theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.
About Research Now
Research Now is the leading global online sampling and online data collection company. With more than 6 million panelists in 38 countries worldwide, Research Now offers a full suite of data collection services. For more information, please visit researchnow.com.
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For nearly six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the leading provider of voluntary insurance at the worksite. In Japan, Aflac is the number one life insurance company in terms of individual policies in force. Aflac individual and group insurance products help provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For eight consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In 2014, FORTUNE magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the 16th consecutive year. Also, in 2014, FORTUNE magazine included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 13th time, ranking the company number one in the life and health insurance category. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com or espanol.aflac.com.
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