Health insurance carriers and brokers – Is it time for couples therapy?

By: Matt Greenstein Health Insurance

They say breaking up is hard to do, but staying together is even harder. Therapists often cite the number one mistake couples make is waiting to fix problems until it’s too late. Therapy is for those who are committed to their partner, not those already considering separation.

Carriers and brokers have partnered for years to serve employers’ health insurance needs. In today’s U.S. health insurance environment, brokers are under pressure to demonstrate more value, and carriers are operating in a hyper-competitive marketplace. The changing landscape represents an opportunity to re-evaluate the carrier/broker relationship, but how do you know that it might be time for some therapy?

Picture1Start by answering these questions:

Are you committed to the relationship?

If the broker is not part of the carrier’s long-term growth strategy – for example you are planning a direct or consumer play-down market – therapy won’t help. If the broker is opening their own exchange or deploying strategies to commoditize the insurance product, therapy won’t work.

Are you easy to do business with?

If carriers are not responding with quotes in a timely fashion (e.g., 1-3 days), providing data brokers need to create value, or meeting service level commitments, they are not easy to do business with. If brokers are not transparent – clearly communicating their strategy and partnership needs – they are not easy to do business with. If you are committed but simply not easy to do business with, it’s time for therapy. Therapy represents an opportunity to get these problems out on the table and address them.

Do you know what your partner values?

If carriers are still spending their money on events and broker forums to develop relationships, they don’t understand what the contemporary broker needs. Today’s broker wants analytics, tools, input during product development and access to underwriting staff. Carriers value loyalty and transparency. Carriers understand it’s a competitive marketplace and expect a fair shot at putting their best foot forward. If you are questioning your understanding of what your partner values, then it’s time for therapy.

So now you know whether or not therapy is for you. Now where do we begin?

Start with the following steps:

1.    Have a Session – The first step is walking through the door. Sit down together – in person – to discuss how to improve the relationship. Air all the dirty laundry, identify the problems and opportunities to target, and put a plan of action in place. Establish a regular cadence of “sessions” to keep the momentum and maintain communication.

2.    Commit to Make Changes – If the carrier wants more quote opportunities and the broker wants faster quote response time, start there. Keep it simple. Demonstrate to your partner that you are serious about investing in the relationship. Once you have established trust, you can expand the number and complexity of opportunities addressed.

3.    Execute – Commitments made to your partner should be taken seriously. Assign internal accountability for achieving agreed performance standards. Set goals and track. If the broker is committed to more quote volume, monitor it and communicate when performance does not meet expectations. If the broker requires faster quote response time, measure it. Hold people accountable for maintaining standards.

The U.S. Health Insurance landscape is evolving. Depending on who you speak with, it’s just another cycle like consumerism and it will move slowly. Others are more bullish – health insurance is heading towards commoditization and exchanges will rapidly change the world.

Regardless of the speed or degree of change, sales leaders agree change is afoot and it’s time to take a fresh look at long-standing paradigms like the Carrier-Broker relationship.

Going to therapy can be painful. You can’t be passive; you have to take action. If you are committed to the relationship, then don’t make the fatal mistake of waiting until the separation is the only option.

Visit the Alexander Group’s Health Insurance practice to learn more.
Read more about the changing landscape of the Health Insurance market.

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Matt Greenstein

Matt Greenstein is a principal based out of the New York and Stamford offices. He works with clients across technology, life sciences and healthcare. He has responsibility for leading the firms Life Science and Analytical Instrument, Health Insurance, and Digital Transformation practices. His areas of focus include large scale transformation and integration across all commercial functions–tactical marketing, sales and service. Matt has global consulting experience and is known for his fact-based, hypothesis-driven, problem-solving style.


Matt has 10+ years of management consulting experience. Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Matt held sales and marketing leadership positions with a major information management company. Matt has a B.S. from Fairfield University and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. He is also a Certified Sales Compensation Professional.


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