Health Care

Health Insurance Brokers Become Business Educators

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With the constant changes in health-care laws combined with uncertainty about what might happen to the Affordable Care Act after the November election, insurance brokers increasingly find themselves assuming a new role: educator.

“Education is one of the biggest things we want to do,” says Bob Gearhart Jr., vice president of DC Wellness, Boardman. “Many employers don’t know what they don’t know.”

As definitions shift, tax-filing requirements change and deadlines move, it can be easy for business owners to fall behind on what they must do to comply with health insurance regulations.

“Most businesses have their own accounting firms and the accountant should be aware of the information regarding tax changes,” says Ray Kashmiry, president of R. Kashmiry & Associates, Boardman. “Larger companies have HR [human resources] departments to be on top of it. But it can still get difficult to keep up with everything all while running a business at the same time.”

With that in mind, many brokers take it upon themselves to keep their clients informed.

“Any time something changes, we send out an email to every one of our clients and post it on our website,” Kashmiry says. “That’s for any change.”

Beyond that, he continues, business owners have more than ample resources available. Websites such as Kaiser Health News – KHN.org – and the Health Affairs Blog – HealthAffairs.org/blog – regularly post updates and there are numerous seminars and online webinars they can sign up for. For tax filings, the IRS website has all necessary forms available, along with instructions on what an employer must do to complete the form.

Ultimately, it’s an employer’s responsibility to be up-to-date and that’s where relationships come into play. “The easiest way is to talk with your broker,” says Daniel Caparso, president of National Healthcare Access, Boardman. “If they’re good, they’ll be up-to-date on the law and educate you,” he says. “If you rely on them to keep you up-to-date and they aren’t, you’ll be the one getting in trouble, not them.”

When making changes to insurance plans and brokers, Gearhart advises business owners to conduct research on brokers before committing. Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, doors have been opened for new businesses to enter the fray and not all of them have a background in health care.

“You need to take a one-week course online and 24 hours of continuing education every two years,” he says, explaining the requirements to sell insurance. “The person who cuts your hair has more of a certification process than the person who can sell what’s probably your second-biggest expense in a rapidly changing environment.”

Of course, not all brokers fall into that category. George Morris, president of Morris Financial Group, Salem, says that the brokers and advisers in the field who’ve stuck it out through the changes are all the better for it.

“They’re committed to it and well-versed and involved to better help their clients,” he says. “They might not do all the tax forms, but they can be in front of it all and take you through the process.”

Looking to the future, DC Wellness’ Gearhart points to technology and software that was best-suited for companies with workforces in the hundreds. Such technology has been scaled down and optimized for small businesses.

“Technology will catch up to the process and allow employers to leverage things that make their lives easier,” he says. “I don’t think the law will get any less confusing or undefined. It will continue to be a constant battle. If you have the right team assembled, then as an employer it’ll be easier.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.