A lot of things are changing in the benefits arena. At the top of the list is health insurance. Carriers are rethinking everything from 2021 premiums to how they are going to cover what they expect to be ongoing expenses related to coronavirus testing and treatment. All of it trickles down through general agencies, brokers, and employers, to eventually reach the workers who depend on their health insurance benefits to obtain medical care.

For health insurance brokers, the coming months will be transformational. As we head into open enrollment for 2021, there are two buzzwords that define which brokers will manage their book of business best through the end of the year: speed and flexibility.

Think of it in terms of battling a forest fire. Firefighting crews have to work quickly. They have to be nimble enough to change tack at a moment’s notice. They have to be flexible enough to respond no matter what the inferno throws at them. Open enrollment will not be quite so critical, but insurance brokers will still have to demonstrate they can move and respond quickly.

Carriers Changing Their Plans

Among the biggest changes for 2021 will undoubtedly be those implemented by health insurance carriers. For example, it is reasonable to expect carriers to accept telehealth more readily as an alternative to in-person visits to the doctor. Private insurance companies have already begun following CMS’ lead in making more payments for telehealth services during the coronavirus crisis.

Now that telehealth has had such an impact on healthcare delivery, there is no putting it back on the shelf. It is here to stay. Thus, carriers have little choice but to change their plans to include more telehealth coverage.

Carriers are also having to look at how they compensate physicians at the local level. With in-person visits drying up, the old model of offloading most of the risk to them no longer works. Doctors cannot wait until the end of the year to receive all of their compensation. They need to be paid monthly or they risk not being able to keep up.

Employers Looking for New Options

Carriers are not the only ones looking to make changes. According to BenefitMall, so are employers. Small businesses that were able to cover the cost of health insurance benefits at the start of 2020 may no longer be able to afford to continue without making changes.

Some will transition employees to government-run exchanges so they can terminate their health insurance plans altogether. Others will be looking for alternative plans that offer less coverage at a lower price. The point is that genuine economic concerns are forcing employers to rethink all of their benefits.

How will benefits brokers respond? The nimblest will have access to dozens of carriers and plans. They will be looking for new carriers to partner with. They will be looking to build relationships with general agencies capable of giving them access to a much larger basket of options.

More Focus on Mental Health

Benefits brokers should also be prepared to embrace a greater focus on mental health in the workplace. Mental health and its importance to workers has become readily apparent over the last six months. Employers are waking up to that fact. Some are starting to wonder how they can incorporate mental health benefits into their 2021 packages.

Almost everything in the benefits arena is in flux right now. And unfortunately, things are changing rapidly. Benefits brokers capable of responding quickly and nimbly are in the best position to come out on top when the dust finally settles.