Benefit brokers have been on the receiving end of backlash from employers and employees alike due to the perceived lack of transparency in their dealings between companies and insurance carriers. But one brokerage is set on changing this narrative.
This month, Nava Benefits is releasing a healthcare navigation app, free to all of its hundreds of employer clients. The app will place all an employee’s benefits information in one place, including insurance cards, access codes to telehealth apps, access to insurance portals and their current state of coverage. A messaging feature will allow users to connect with Nava staff for additional support, including managing unusually high medical bills.
“We sold these employers plans and we recommended these vendors,” says Donald DeSantis, co-founder and chief product officer at Nava. “If you’re having an issue, we shouldn’t leave you hanging and potentially on the hook to fight a bill because you tried to use your insurance benefits.”
Read more: Are employers choosing affordable healthcare benefits?
Surprise medical bills aren’t out of the norm, regardless of the insurance carrier or health plan. One in five US adults have been billed an unexpected balance after receiving care, with 22% of those respondents being overcharged $1,000 or more, according to a 2022 survey from the Morning Consult, a business intelligence company.
DeSantis recalled an employee who was charged $20,000 after the hospital claimed their procedure wasn’t covered. Nava was able to get the claim reprocessed and reduce the bill to $0. Nava hopes this app will make it easier for employees to reach out and solve problems.
“The person probably would first reach out to the insurance carrier, run into a wall and then escalate it to HR — then HR comes to us,” says DeSantis. “There’s so much friction there. How many
History has proven many times over that things change. It’s inevitable. And yet, most of the time we didn’t see it coming. But there are shifts happening right now in the benefits of advising the world that will change how we play the game as brokers.
Many of us remember when Blockbuster was the place to go for your latest and oldest video selections. Every weekend, customers line up to pick out their rentals, especially when the retail chain comes out with its unlimited video option. Then Netflix entered and changed the entire game. We no longer need Blockbuster.
for years, brokers were compensated for their consulting and serving time in commissions received from enrolling health plan participants. Some of us are starting to charge fees instead of commissions, more for transparency than anything. This way, our employer clients know what they are paying their broker.
Read more: How advisers can empower employers during open enrollment
But I think there is much more change on the horizon. Netflix saw a sea change coming when the company decided to separate movie streaming and DVD rentals. The world initially balked, but over time, that gamble paid off.
The bright light in the benefits of the world is that consulting and administration are starting to separate, much like the movie-rental business did. Our employer clients have been taught how to shop and purchase their benefits programs from the insurance broker community. Replacing commissions with fees was a fair move to show what we are being paid. But now, how will clients react to the fee model being separated for the first time?
Payroll companies are becoming more aggressive about essentially stealing our commissions by requesting to change the broker’s record. They streamline benefits and payroll into one system, eliminating confusion and duplicated