“Complaining is not a strategy.”-- Jeff Bezos, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Amazon.com
It’s no secret that the insurance benefits industry is rapidly changing, probably at the fastest rate in its history. United Benefit Advisor’s Chief Executive Officer, Thom Mangan, has been outspoken about the fact that advisors who don’t keep up with the changing benefits industry will quickly get left behind. Mangan is often recognized for his drive to stay one step ahead of the game and was recently honored with the CEO Leadership Award from the Institute of HealthCare Consumerism (IHCC) as a result of his leadership in this area. In this brief interview with the IHCC, he shares his thoughts on the future.
IHCC: In your view, how is the world of the health benefits advisor changing?
Mangan: Clients are no longer looking for a transactional insurance agent but a consultative advisor. The advisor must have tools and resources such as claims analytics, benchmarking data, national footprint and compliance resources in order to stay in business.
IHCC: What are you hearing are the biggest obstacles for benefits advisors going forward?
Mangan: Access to resources needed to remain relevant.
IHCC: Where are the greatest opportunities for advisors going forward?
Mangan: Those who invest in their business will succeed beyond the level they are today while those 90 percent who do not will die a quick death. An advisor can no longer be a generalist in insurance, but must have a “Ph. D.” to drive to the next level.
IHCC: What opportunities can a smaller benefits advisor firm -- one that may be a UBA Partner -- provide for an organization over a larger, multinational firm?
Mangan: Health insurance is a local choice dealing with local business. UBA Partner Firms have real people in more than 250 communities across the nation who can make changes at the speed of a PT boat versus a national advisor who moves at the speed of an aircraft carrier.
IHCC: What trends in health care and employee benefits are you currently most “bullish” about?
Mangan: The more complex the federal government makes health insurance, the more valuable a modern advisor becomes to their clients.
IHCC: How has the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) impacted the benefits advisor field? How has UBA helped advisors in this area?
Mangan: Clients have been looking to their advisor to provide guidance regarding PPACA. Unlike most advisors who just forward carrier information or articles, UBA has a group of nine ERISA attorneys who generate relevant information quickly for the 40,000 employers that are clients of UBA Partner Firms.
IHCC: In your view, what are some of the most interesting or relevant points from this year's Health Plan Survey?
Mangan: 2013 is the calm before the storm. While the past two years have shown renewals of 4 percent and 5 percent respectively, 2014 is a headwind that will turn out to be a hurricane. Where the Northeast annual cost per employee per month is $10,808 those in the Southeast are $7,846. Most of this pricing is based around plan design. In 2014, PPACA will force employers to offer much richer health plans in the rest of the country which will raise the rates for the lower cost areas anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent.
IHCC: How would you describe your overall vision for UBA going forward?
Mangan: Having been a part of this industry for more than two decades, this, to me, is one of the most exciting times in history, with great opportunities ahead. For example, UBA just launched two new private health insurance exchanges – Benefits Passport® and benefitbay™ – which are part of UBA’s continued innovation. There is much more to come and the excellent people who make up UBA are leading the way. I’m honored to be a part of this organization.