Soar or crash under PPACA?

By BenefitsPro

By Kathryn Mayer

DENVER — Brokers will survive.

That was the main message at Colorado State Association of Health Underwriter’s annual symposium Tuesday.

Despite the threats the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act presents to brokers — lost commissions, regulatory red tape, and so on — brokers still have a role in health care — and an important one at that.

“Consumers need you now more than ever,” John Kurath, vice president of the Colorado market at Warner Pacific, told a packed room of hundreds of brokers Tuesday. As consumers and employers muddle through the new exchanges sprouting up under PPACA, as well as struggling to understand all the new regulations, they will look to brokers as experts for advice and education.

“Agents and brokers will not only survive, but thrive,” he said.

But Kurath noted brokers and agents need to evolve in order to become — and stay — successful.

“Our jobs are changing, so we need to keep changing,” Kurath said.

First, brokers need to acknowledge the health care landscape is changing significantly, and they can’t fight it anymore.

A wait-and-see approach — waiting for the Supreme Court decision on PPACA, the 2012 presidential election results, or Republicans to repeal all or part of the law — simply won’t work, experts say.

Instead, brokers need to get educated on everything regarding PPACA so they can educate their clients, said Michael Ginsberg, sales director, individual and family plans, at Cigna.

Among big issues consumers need help with? Understanding health subsidies under the law. Though a number of people will qualify for them, most have no idea. According to a new survey from, 58 percent of consumers said they aren’t sure whether they are eligible for the law’s health subsidies. And those who are supposed to benefit from those most, those with an annual income under $30,000 are the least likely to be aware of their eligibility (68 percent aren’t sure).

State exchanges also could provide more opportunity for brokers.

Jim Sugden, who helps run Colorado’s state exchange, said Colorado will certify 600-1,000 brokers for its exchange and work with them closely to ensure the success of the operation.

“The choice is yours,” Sugden told brokers. “You have advantages. You have new product options and new consumer opportunities.”

Since PPACA was signed into law, brokers as a whole have largely been in panic mode, Kurath said.

The first year, brokers asked “Will I have a job?” Then the question became “Will my clients need me?” Now, it’s “Will I still get paid?,” Kurath explained.

But there’s no need for worry.

“The answer to those questions is yes, yes and yes,” Kurath said.

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