The exchange disconnectBlog added by Denis Storey on June 16, 2014
Denis Storey

Denis Storey

Centennial, CO

Joined: September 29, 2010

My Company

SEATTLE — I think I’m at the wrong trade show. Either that or the exchanges have taken over here, too.

(Which is strange, considering how much a failure they’re supposed to be.)

But, yeah, day one of AHIP Institute — the annual carrier association gathering — was all about consumers, exchanges and data. Which pretty much made it all about consumers.

I guess it goes it without saying that I spend most of my time listening to brokers — well, and my boss — but mostly brokers. So to hear these carrier types talk about exchanges and (the return of) the defined contribution model as if it’s all a given, well, to be honest, it’s a little jarring.

“No matter how you feel about it, the train has left the station,” one panelist said flat out. “We just have to figure out where it’s going.”

Given the comments on our forums on any given day, I’m not so sure brokers have figured that out yet.

Sure, the Aons, the Marshes and the Gallaghers have been there for a while now. But I’m talking about the bulk of our readers — the small and mid-market crowd who will face some pretty tough decisions soon.

(By the way, if you think 2014 enrollment was rough, 2015 should be fun, even without any more delays.)

But I guess what troubles me the most about today was running headlong into a disconnect I never saw coming. For the carriers, techies and — most importantly — the employers, what’s done is done. The exchanges are the new reality. And the independent broker’s fate is now tied to whether she gets on board that proverbial train or whether he decided to see the in silent protest — occupying PPACA.

That being said, brokers ready to fight for their survival will discover two things.

One, they’ll find that carriers are still committed to working with them. Research from one of the last sessions of the day showed that brokers will remain the leading distribution channel for carriers in 2015.

And, two, they’ll find employers who expect more substance than style. And while they love all the bells and whistles the latest tech platform can provide, they want to know what else ya got.

One more thing: It seems like everyone and their brother has an exchange these days. There are certainly enough of them downstairs in the exhibit hall. Come to think of it, this whole show almost has an early ‘80s Silicon Valley vibe to it — a Wild West marketplace littered with two-car garage entrepreneurs trying to launch the next big thing.

I just wish brokers had a bigger part in it.

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