by HealthPartners

As a small business or start-up, this could be the first time you’re thinking about purchasing health insurance for your business. Or maybe you’re a larger, more established small business that has bought its plan directly from the same health insurance company for years because there doesn’t seem to be an alternative out there. You might just accept the plans your insurance carrier offers, as well as any price increases, because you feel you don’t have a choice.

But what if we told you that you do have a choice? You can have more variety in plan designs and more flexibility for your diverse, growing workforce. All you need to do is work with a health insurance broker.

What is a health insurance broker?

A health insurance broker is a licensed professional who sells health insurance plans from a variety of companies.

What exactly does a health insurance broker do? They do more than just sell health insurance. A broker can function as an important extension of your Human Resources (HR) department. They wear all the hats from health plan designer to financial advisor to talent expert to help you find the best fit in health coverage. They are especially valuable to small employers who have equally small HR teams because they create efficiencies when it comes to purchasing, communicating and disseminating your policy.

Put simply, they’re that trusted advisor who can help you navigate the ever-shifting health insurance market and find new ways to support your employees.

What's the difference between an insurance broker and agent?

There’s a difference between working with a broker and buying health insurance direct from a sales agent. While both are experts in employee benefits, an agent represents just one insurance company and a broker is an independent, neutral, third party. That means they aren't tied to any particular health solution, and their focus is on soliciting quotes, reviewing offers and examining a mix of insurance companies to help you find the best overall product, pricing and value for your organization.

What are the benefits of working with a broker to buy private group health insurance?

If your health insurance market has been historically uncompetitive and you’ve purchased your health plan directly from the insurance company, you may be unfamiliar with the benefits a broker can provide.

But the truth is, the market is shifting and becoming much more competitive. The best way to navigate the ins and outs of the increasingly complex health insurance market is to partner with a broker. They can help you explore a broad array of health solutions that would otherwise be difficult, ineffective or cost-prohibitive to find on your own. They can also serve as a key conduit for connecting you with other benefits experts, platform providers, electronic enrollment systems, wellness consultants, legal counsel and so much more.

Plus, many brokers are investing in data-driven systems that offer information on trends, benchmarks and health risk insights that are unique to your industry and your employee population.

If you’re a small employer, you’re competing with large employers for talent. A broker can bring market insights to the table about what the larger employers in your area are doing in terms of plan designs. They can outline what’s appealing in your industry and in the labor market – whether it be regionally or even nationally.  Their goal is to help you take advantage of any new options available to design a more affordable, competitive benefits package.

The best part? They generally don't cost you anything extra. At HealthPartners, we include broker commissions in all premium rates – there’s nothing more you need to pay or worry about. And if you choose not to partner with a broker, your HR team would need to provide additional administrative support for managing the plan selection process, which could be more costly than the actual broker commission.

Plus, at the end of the day, the commission is negligible when compared to the value and savings a broker can deliver in new and innovative plan options.

How to find a health insurance broker

When searching for the right broker in your area, look to recommendations from your trusted advisors—whether that’s your accountant, attorney or another business owner. There may also be associations in your area focused on small-business health insurance. For assistance finding an independent and licensed agent in your area appointed to sell HealthPartners products, reach out directly to us:

Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin: 800-298-4235
Iowa: 833-256-7040

How to choose a health insurance broker

When choosing a health insurance broker, you want to make sure you work with an industry expert who understands the ever-evolving insurance marketplace as well as the unique needs of your organization.

Questions to ask your health insurance broker

  • How long have you been doing this? Experience matters! Avoid “newbies” unless they’re working under the guidance of an experienced broker.
  • How many insurance companies do you represent? Brokers representing a small number of health insurance companies are limited in the value they can offer and their ability to connect clients to comprehensive market solutions.
  • What do you do to stay on top of the latest industry news and trends? With the health insurance marketplace constantly shifting, you want a broker who stays up-to-date on the industry.
  • Have you worked with other businesses like mine? Get a feel for how well they know your industry and the unique needs of your workforce.
  • What additional support do you offer to your clients, outside of shopping for rates? Brokers can help with everything from open enrollment to employee communication, employee portals, enrollment tools, and more. The level of support and resources provided to clients by brokers will vary significantly by firm.
  • Would you be willing to provide references? Call their current clients to validate their statements.

Work with a broker to explore what HealthPartners has to offer

Don’t wait – reach out and start a conversation with a benefits broker today to get the market insights, competitive analysis and health solutions information that can help you design the right plan at the right time for your organization.

Ask your broker about HealthPartners health solutions in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin and South Dakota. We offer a wide variety of fully-funded and level-funded options for large and small employers, including integrated medical and dental benefits as well as pharmacy benefits. Our products are flexible and designed to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. A broker can help you find the best fit for your organization.