How benefit advisers can help with the 'nightmare' of health care delivery

The logistics of health care have become a nightmare that goes way beyond the purchase of a medical plan, said a speaker at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania in Las Vegas Wednesday. While the shift towards consumer-driven health care attempts to solve some of those logistical challenges, benefit advisers could and should play a crucial role in helping employers and employees understand the new health care delivery system.

“If there is one thing I want [brokers] to think about, it’s that we need to become more than a transaction, because the transaction is hard enough,” said Frederick Karutz, senior vice president, business development, at ConnectedHealth.

Although many advisers are “not a master of logistics in health care,” they should aim to be, he adds. Benefit advisers that do so have more value add to consumers and clients than those brokers and agents that focus solely on the purchase of medical benefits.

Calling the thrust of high-deductible plans and complicated health care options onto the consumer akin to “waterboarding,” Karutz said that consumers don’t understand and that needs to change.

A shift from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans means “the employer is no longer responsible for the inflationary spiral of health care costs,” said Rob Thurston, president of HR Consulting Group Inc. at a separate panel during the conference.

Gregg Dennis, president of IIS Benefit Administrators and another panelist at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Mania conference, said he predicts many employers will move to defined contribution plans with the help of a broker.

“It’s a risk evaluation,” he said.

Employers will need the help of an adviser that understands the Affordable Care Act because “If employees are not enrolled properly and thought they had comprehensive coverage” it could end up in a costly court battle for the employer, he added.

At the heart of all these health care complexities, lies the challenge of increasing health care costs. “What we can do in small group is ultimately find a solution,” Dennis said. “There are many out there. Each employer, each broker will find their own path.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.