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12 ways to check if your insurance broker in the UAE is adding value

12 ways to check if your insurance broker in the UAE is adding value

Companies need to truly understand if their brokers are doing everything they should be doing

Describing the insurance broker market in the UAE as crowded and competitive is an understatement. As of 2016, the number of registered ‘insurance advisors’ across the UAE was over 130.

But the competition has not automatically led to widespread quality in the sector. In fact, quite the opposite. The scrabble for business has seen brokers undercut price (and unfortunately often service levels as well) in order to attract business.

With that in mind, you as the customer need to truly understand if your broker is doing everything they should be doing.

So let’s look at what needs to be on your broker’s ‘to do’ list and then ask the question – is your broker ticking all 12 of these boxes?

1. Understand your risk appetite: A professional broker will sit with your HR and/or procurement team and review your requirements in terms of the organisation’s appetite for carrying or transferring the risk. If the risk needs to be transferred, they will help you determine what portion of it needs to be insured and at what costs. In addition, they will help you design a programme which is suitable for the organisation’s needs.

2. Marketing of your employee benefits programme: While the careful design of the insurance programme is critical for meeting your requirements, it is also important to access the insurance markets that can provide the cover as per the design at competitive costs. The broker will also help you choose insurance providers who will guarantee quality service and prompt claims settlements. This is achieved through an efficient marketing exercise which involves accessing the appropriate markets, obtaining terms, negotiations and placement.

3. Provide helpful comparisons: Your broker should be able to draw on the deep knowledge of your company and industry competitors in order to paint an accurate picture of the insurance landscape. By having a firm grasp on market trends, they will be able to ‘benefit match’ what you and similar-sized competitors are including in their insurance provisions. By performing these comparisons, guidance can then be given on the best overall package for your organisation’s requirements.

4. Innovate to counter medical inflation: There are a number of ways in which your broker can advise your company on how best to counter medical inflation. For example, a savvy broker will suggest that you move from using expensive branded pharmaceuticals to the non-branded equivalents (the US Food and Drug Administration states that savings of approximately 80 to 85 per cent are possible by doing this).

Installing defined medical pathways can also reduce cost – better directing claimants to appropriate treatment, deterring unnecessary visits to physicians, using provider networks, and leveraging data to increase future claims efficiency.

5. Negotiate with the best of them: When you appoint a broker, one of their key strengths should be the ability to negotiate on your behalf. This is primarily why they are there – to use their wealth of knowledge and market experience to identify the most appropriate package for your company and then be a shrewd negotiator when it comes to closing the deal. Brokers should also have done their homework on your organisation’s requirements as well – they’ll know what coverage you need and be able to negotiate a tailored package that fits the bill. Your broker must be able to analyse your current policy and advise on whether to seek an alternative insurer or not.

6. Assist with administration of the scheme: Technology has touched almost every area of our lives in the last two decades – and insurance brokerage firms are part of that. In fact, brokers have been quick to adopt online platforms that allow them to offer smoother and quicker enrollment of staff. Due to times of either rapid expansion or large scale redundancy, corporations may have to adjust their workforce accordingly – having a broker who can use technology to streamline the process of adding and deleting members is extremely important.

7. Help communicate benefits to members (employees): One of the most valuable ways a broker can help your company is to communicate to your employees the extent (and limits) of their coverage. Having a broker who can effectively inform members of this can help cut out frustration and anger when employees assume that they are covered for certain procedures only to be informed otherwise once at the physician’s office. Brokers can communicate to employees in a number of ways, either in face-to-face meetings or via online platforms.

8. Introduce technology platforms that aid with efficiencies: We’ve already covered the broker’s use of online tools to manage and improve the enrollment and removal of members, but brokers can also use technology to drive a number of efficiencies in your healthcare provision.

Technology can be used in administration, employee communication, data reporting, claims analytics and provide insight into your insurance and how well it is performing. The technology available today can be utilised by a broker to understand your benefit levels and adjust them accordingly where appropriate. By having a ‘real time’ assessment of your healthcare plan, and two-way communication with members, you can constantly leverage valuable information about your product and membership.

9. Ensure a smooth transition into new products: Your broker will be able to guide your healthcare policy to stay relevant to the needs and requirements of the employees who rely on it. Using data analytics and drawing on market knowledge and trends, the broker can advise on any changes that should be made to your policy. One of the most important aspects of your product is that it remains tailored to any conditions to which your employees are exposed.

Having cover that provides adequate provision for common injuries and illnesses (pertinent to your workforce given the nature of their employment) is a must. Your broker will be able to review your claims history, and detect any high instance or regular issues and then build your care plan to accommodate this. There’s no point having more cover for something that you rarely or never claim for, and then not having enough cover for something that sees high volumes of claims.

A good broker will slant your coverage and change elements of your policy to reflect your bespoke requirements – however often they change and shift in today’s business world. Use your broker to learn about developments in the insurance market, and whether they can be applied to your policy in a way that benefits you and your employees.

10. Assist with complicated claims: Brokers can help employees with particularly complex or detailed claims and provide a mediation service between the claimant and the insurer. The best brokers will be able to provide multiple levels of assistance throughout the claims process. Some brokers may even provide a designated individual through whom all claims are channelled for your employees.

11. Go above and beyond claims analysis and subsequent recourse: This is where your brokerage partner can really separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Brokers can offer in-house wellness experts to advise on conditions that affect your employees’ general health – this might include diet, level of exercise and working environment. The broker can also help implement preventative screening programmes and recommend routine health checks, promote wellness programmes and smoking-cessation initiatives. A healthier workforce equates to fewer claims on your insurance.

12. Assist with ex-gratia payments: Although it’s not a widespread practice, brokers can and do sometimes arrange ex-gratia (‘out of goodwill’) payments for which insurers are not technically liable but may pay in certain specific circumstances. Most insurers will keep an ex-gratia fund for such non-standard payments which they may pay in the interest of maintaining good relationships. A good broker plays an important liaison role in this process where ex-gratia payments are obtained.

So are you getting what you need from your broker?

Whether you know it or not, your broker can do so much more than just arrange your annual health insurance policy. The question is, are you utilising them to the fullest? Brokers will often be happy to work with you in these ‘extra’ ways as it is an excellent method for them to build effective relationships and enhance their reputation in the market. And all these at no additional cost to your organisation.

Stephen MacLaren is regional head of Distribution Human Capital and Benefits at Al Futtaim Willis

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