Brokers take on new role as reform navigator

As the Affordable Care Act changes the insurance landscape, more than 35 percent of health insurance brokers now act as navigators for plans offered on the exchanges, according to a new Aflac survey of more than 300 brokers.

However, the survey also found 49 percent of brokers are somewhat lost in the healthcare industry and don't know what their role entails. With this uncertainty, brokers are looking to redefine their place among fellow healthcare companies.

Now, more than ever, employers are relying on brokers to make better benefits decisions--about 64 percent of employers used brokers in 2014, up from 56 percent in 2011. This reliance represents the fact that employers still remain confused about the healthcare reform law. About 27 percent of brokers listed client uncertainty about reform as a top priority, according to the survey.

As the healthcare law becomes more complex, brokers need to understand the differences among plans and explain them to consumers, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Many states use brokers to educate customers shopping for health insurance plans. For example, Connect for Health Colorado has brokers serve as navigators to help consumers find the right product for them, reports Northern Colorado Business Report. "We need to plan and make resources available to support customers when they're finally ready to make a purchase," Linda Kanamine, the exchange's director of communications, told the publication.

In addition to informing consumers through new consulting services, brokers are expanding their usual product offerings to include more voluntary insurance benefits. Brokers who offer voluntary insurance benefits are 12 percent more likely to maintain or increase their sales, according to the Aflac survey.

For more:
- here's the Aflac announcement
- check out the Northern Colorado Business Report piece