Friday, March 23 , 2018, 5:54 pm | Fair 63º



Suzanne Nicastro: Health Insurance 101 — The New Health Insurance Broker

Holocaust survivor and famed neurologist Viktor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Suzanne Nicastro

As a health insurance broker who entered the field in June 2011, I find myself powerless to change the Affordable Care Act politics, which swirl in confusing patterns around my clients’ board rooms, offices, classrooms and assembly lines. All I can do is change my approach to the chaos, and with it, help empower my clients’ ability to see past the worry and frustration.

In 2013, the new health insurance broker has to undergo a serious attitude change if he or she is to be successful in this brave new ACA world. We have to be a positive and neutral force within a business environment rife with worry. We have to be brave and honest with our clients and tell them things they don’t want to hear.

And bless them, our clients listen and do their best to be good compliance soldiers.

However, with the most recent Obamacare change, which allows the Internal Revenue Service to delay assessing employer penalties for failure to offer coverage in 2014 (or for coverage mistakes in 2014) we see both relief and anger. Some clients were relieved they had been granted a time reprieve. Others had already begun painful staff adjustments to meet compliance standards for Jan. 1, 2014.

These employers are now asking for advice. Do they stop readjusting staffing policies (for another year), or do they move forward to meet the mandate? What if the Democrats lose the Senate in 2014? Will these employers have restructured their businesses for a soon-to-be defunct legislation?

The new health insurance broker has to field these hot topic questions as well as continually learning and “unlearning” complicated legislative insurance reform. As soon as we have “mastered” a concept, there’s another email blast informing us that a mandate has changed or been deleted from the law. Each day, we must read, read more, and then read even more. We are often challenged to interpret laws that are convoluted and unworkable.

With all that, our broker challenges are insignificant compared to the challenges our business partners face. For them, and for all of us, Obamacare continues to influence daily decisions, fiscal planning and future hiring practices. As we collectively face the unknown, the new health insurance broker must be able to calmly and consistently navigate the turbulent waters of reform.

We must stay focused and resolute in our ability to advise clients. Our attitude has to be about service in 2014 — not sales. We must rethink our own motivations and goals and provide selfless advice to our clients.

Anything less should be unthinkable in today’s Obamacare world.

— Suzanne Nicastro is a vice president of Brown & Brown Insurance Services in Goleta and holds a master’s degree in administrative leadership.

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