NPR has recently performed a position on insurers that provided incentives to group health brokers. While some insurance companies promise rewards – such as holiday travel to exotic locations and even the possibility to play with a retired MLB player – others reward brokers with suspiciously requested assignments.
Typically, brokers are paid a commission of about 3% to 6% of the total premium employers pay for the plan of health; As the customer pays more in premiums, the broker's commission increases. But NPR discovered that commissions can be even higher – up to 40% or even 50% of the premium – on additional plans for things like dental costs, oncological care or long-term hospitalization.
Brokers can even receive additional commissions, sometimes marked as "confidential" on the websites of insurance companies and intermediary agencies. These bonuses are usually included in the total costs of health plans as hidden extra costs.
These commissions influence what plans brokers sell to their customers, argued University of Colorado Center for Bioethics and Humanities director of research Eric Campbell.
"It's a classic conflict of interest," Campbell remarked.
Campbell compares the group's preference for health mediators with a similar situation for the pharmaceutical industry. He stressed that there are "a large number of virtually irrefutable evidence" showing that paying medicines to doctors affects the way they prescribe medicines.
"Denying this effect is like denying that gravity exists," he said, adding that there is no reason to think that brokers are different.
Apart from the conflict of interests that arises when an insurer encourages brokers, another problem within the sector of benefits that would make the problem possible is the lack of transparency.
Earlier this year, ProPublica sent a questionnaire to 10 of America's largest brokerage firms – Alliant, Aon, Arthur Gallagher, BB & T, Brown & Brown, HUB International, Lockton, Marsh & McLennan, Willis Towers Watson and USI – asking if they got bonuses and commissions from insurers, and whether they have disclosed them to their customers. Four companies refused to respond, while the others never responded despite repeated requests for comments.
Insurers also see nothing wrong with their current commission models, convinced that there is nothing wrong with rewarding brokers for their work, ProPublica found it. Although trade groups such as America's Health Insurance Plans claim that insurance brokers & # 39; Above all & # 39; To encourage customers to help, some insurers clearly reward brokers for their dedication to them instead.
"To thank you for your loyalty to Humana, we would like to express our thanks with a bonus," said an online brochure from Humana.
Another Empire Blue Cross brochure in New York told brokers that it would yield new bonuses "for bringing in large group companies … and keeping it with us."