This seems like a funny question, a joke of sorts, but its answer has real implications for the health insurance industry. A recent article by Martha C. White from Time.com asks the question; Would you buy health insurance at Costco?, in reaction to news Costco members can now purchase one of five Aetna plans in the checkout line. Has health insurance been commoditized to the point it can be packaged and sold in the checkout line next to gum, Tic Tacs, and magazines ‘exposing’ Kim Kardashian’s newest love interest?(Kanye West) The answer is no. Where have the experts, authorities, brokers and consumer advocates gone? Has society moved away from needing the expertise of these individuals? Are consumers knowledgeable enough to make the right decision? Is there a how-to guide online? I surmise there will always be a need for licensed health brokers, agents and producers. Health insurance cannot and should not be a commodity nicely packaged with a UPC code. Health insurance is a multifaceted product that based on the consumers needs and wants, can provide the correct level of protection. We can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, nor should we try. If we do, innovation and progress will lose to the status quo and inefficiency. Some may ask, “Is this a scheme by insurance carriers to undercut the distribution channel and save money?” Carriers are doing what they do best, designing and market insurance products (The 4Ps!). They work in the same market advisors do; a market with millions of people uninsured, double digit cost increases and the political pressure to have health insurance available and priced for the masses. They must adapt to the market by expanding their distribution channels and lowering the hurdles for consumers entering the market. Carriers are being creative! Are you being creative? What process do you have in place that will allow you to be in front of more customers like that of a checkout line? Do clients think of you as a commodity? Brokers are experts who provide the knowledge, advice and advocacy consumers need and want. I say, ‘retail’ health insurance will increase the need for experts. Let’s be honest, when I’m at the grocery store and need to decide between Dove and Ivory soap, I go to the expert in my home, my wife.
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