3 Points of Stress for Independent Health Insurance Agents

By Dr. Jack Singer

Recent changes to health insurance laws have caused dramatic shifts in the careers of independent health insurance agents. Changes in commission structure and competition from health insurance navigators have led independent agents to feel fear and stress. Fortunately, help is available. The professional organization Health Agents of America (HAFA) is looking out for independent agents, and agents can also take control by developing stress management skills.

3 Points of Stress for Independent Health Insurance Agents

Beyond everyday work stress and the challenges of working in a service industry, independent agents have specific stressors caused by the Affordable Care Act. This includes:

Carrier-Based Commission Changes

Independent health insurance agents work for commission on the policies they sell. However, now some carriers are refusing to pay independent agents for their business, despite the fact that these carriers include commission costs in the premiums they collect.

Competition from Health Insurance Navigators

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government is using tax dollars to provide free webinars and newsletters to health insurance “navigators.” This chart displays the differences between licensed agents and exchange navigators. You’ll notice that these navigators are not required to be licensed, do not help you understand plans that are not on the government exchange, do not recommend plans based on your individual needs, and do not act as your advocate if you have a problem with your insurance company. Exchange navigators are competing with licensed agents because they are free to use, despite the fact that they offer lower-level services.

Slashed Commission Rates

Finally, the Affordable Care Act must comply with the medical loss ratio portion of the Act. To do so, they have slashed commissions to independent agents. This means that agents are now doing the same amount of work for less pay.

Help Is Available

As you can imagine, these changes have caused stress and fear in many independent health insurance agents, who worry about competition, lower commission, and the possibility of further changes as the Affordable Care Act is modified in the future. Fortunately, help is available.

One source of help is the Health Agents of America (HAFA) – an organization that was formed to answer a need for independent agents to have exclusive representation and to advance their inclusion in the shrinking health insurance marketplace. HAFA’s support resources include:

  • Continuing education
  • Training
  • Real-time information from states and federal government
  • On-going support
  • A VOICE and a place at the table as the health insurance industry changes.

Regarding that final point, HAFA’s president and CEO is B. Ronnell Nolan, a trade association lobbyist with 20 years of experience. Ronnell knows what it takes to be successful in both state and federal government advocacy. Her tenacity, knowledge of the issues and important connections ensure that independent agents have a voice in the changing health care landscape.

Stress Management & Embracing Change

HAFA also understands that there are many things independent health insurance agents can do on their own to lower their stress and calm their fears. To help, Ronnell has invited me to give a keynote address at the 2016 HAFA Agent Summit, to be held in New Orleans, August 4-5.

At the event, I will share my program “3 Amazingly Simple Steps for Developing the Mindset of a Champion Health Agent,” teaching attendees how to overcome the fear and anxiety that comes with change, how to focus on optimistic expectations in the midst of adversity, and how to stay mentally tough when dealing with challenges.

My goal is to move independent health insurance agents from a fear of what the future holds to actually embracing change and creatively developing new opportunities for success. If there is one thing that independent agents should know, it is that the stress and fear you feel is within your control when you develop the right stress management skills.