PPACA and voluntary benefits: It’s a lot like fishingArticle added by Brian Summers on March 19, 2014
Brian Summers

Brian Summers

New York, NY

Joined: July 01, 2009

My Company

Colonial Life

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The full impact of the PPACA will not be felt on the industry for a number of years. Many fishermen have been proactive and tried to anticipate the changes. Others are still sitting in their boats waiting to hear where another boat is catching fish.

There’s no question the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has impacted the voluntary benefits world. Many of the brokers and companies we work with now view voluntary benefits as an essential part of their benefits package, resulting in an increased opportunity for voluntary sales. With that said, given all the recent rule changes, is it really possible to keep up with them all? And, if so, how do you do it?

I believe the benefits marketplace has become a lot like fishing. Do you want to catch the individual fish or a group of fish? Do you go after the small fish and hope to catch a lot, or do you target the larger fish?

In the past, I’ve taken deep-sea fishing trips for the big fish and come home empty. I’ve also taken trips and come back to the dock with a monster fish! I guess that’s why they call it fishing and not catching fish; you never know what’s going to happen out there.

So, how do you compare PPACA and voluntary benefits with fishing? The first thing that comes to mind is that you have to know what you’re fishing for. Many brokers are trying to find multiple streams of income for each of their accounts. Whether it’s adding voluntary benefits, P&C, 401(k) plans or something else, you have to know what kind of bait you’re using to attract the fish.

You also have to know where you’re going to fish. If you’re going to fish for largemouth bass, for example, you need to go to a freshwater lake. No matter how good you may be, you’re not going to catch largemouth bass in salt water. The best fishermen keep a list of coordinates where the fish are located. They’re not out on the water simply throwing in a line. They have their favorite places or “lucky” spots. They research where they’re going to fish and what type of fish they want to catch.

If you don’t have experience fishing for a certain species, you may want to consult a local boat captain or ask some other fishermen their tricks for catching them. Similarly, if you’ve never offered voluntary benefits before or have little experience in that field, why wouldn’t you consult an expert and work with a partner that wants to see you catch those fish?

When you go fishing, it’s important to know all about the fishing season. The season defines what fish you are allowed to catch and the size you can keep. PPACA is very similar, but the changes have made it difficult to know what season we’re in right now.
The tackle you use to catch fish must be customized today, as well. The rod and reel you used to catch giant tuna with will most likely not work if you’re trying to catch a brook trout. While many brokers have an assortment of tackle for each fishing trip, all of them aren’t that lucky. Tackle costs money, and you have to maintain it for peak performance. Don’t forget about the bait, either. Some fish require more expensive bait. If you don’t have the right tackle and bait for voluntary benefits, consider partnering with someone who does while you continue to fish for group health insurance, P&C, 401(k) plans, or something else.

Some brokerages have the ability to use a trolling boat and scrape the bottom of the ocean with huge nets and simply drag all of the fish onto their boats. They undoubtedly have an advantage in catching a lot of fish at once. They don’t worry about the bait, as much as the location. However, most brokers don’t have that advantage and must learn to be smarter anglers in the future.

The fish today are not biting as much as they used to because PPACA has swirled up the waters and changed the landscape. You now have to be more strategic about where you fish. And when you do catch a new fish, you need to make sure you’re in compliance and not violating any minimum requirements.

You must also evaluate your current catch and determine what you need to fish for in the future and how to do it more effectively. While many people still want to get on a party boat and fish with a bunch of other people, there’s still a unique advantage to the person who wants to cold call or chum the water and attract some fish to their smaller boats.

The full impact of the PPACA will not be felt on the industry for a number of years. Many fishermen have been proactive and tried to anticipate the changes. Others are still sitting in their boats waiting to hear where another boat is catching fish.

Either way, we must continue to adapt and change. We must be innovative in our approach and use all of our resources to catch as many fish as possible.

So, how do you catch more fish? You can either choose to spend day and night out on the water with as many lines in the water as possible, or you can put a voluntary benefits fisherman to work for you who will let you stay in control, invest less of your own time, money and effort and still catch more fish.
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