When the ACA was passed back in 2010, brokers immediately worried that the new “navigator” program would cost them business. That doesn’t really seem to be the case, though; most brokers nowadays don’t see navigators as a threat and aren’t reporting that navigators and assisters are getting to clients before they are.
Still, navigators are out there signing people up, so it’s worth asking how they’re doing it. The fact is that these non-licensed individuals have a “fresh set of eyes” and likely view the challenge of finding uninsured people a little differently than most brokers do. While agents might use search engine optimization, social media, print advertising, or rely heavily on referrals to generate health insurance leads, navigators often take a different approach.
For instance, a local newspaper in Kearney, Nebraska is reporting that “Certified Affordable Care Act Navigators will be available to provide assistance in English and Spanish from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday” at a community clinic in the town. If brokers were hosting a similar event, wouldn’t that be newsworthy? Anytime you can get the local paper to advertise for you for free, that’s a win.
Similarly, as reported by Kaiser Health News:
“To encourage more people to sign up in Florida, Obamacare assisters are handing out flyers at food truck festivals, farmers’ markets and health fairs. They’re giving one-on-one enrollment assistance at libraries, hospitals and community centers. They’re even showing up after church services to sign up people.”
You’ve got to hand it to them: navigators are certainly thinking outside the box, and it’s working. While advertising online and other traditional broker strategies can generate leads among people who are looking for health insurance, navigators seem to be targeting those who aren’t already shopping, which means they’re recruiting people who may have no idea what an insurance agent does. Because so many of the uninsured are still unaware of their eligibility for premium tax credits or their responsibility to purchase health insurance, this is an important group to target.
It is worth noting, though, that some brokers are being creative in their recruiting efforts. For example, the same KHN article tells the story of agent Seif Sidky in Fort Lauderdale, who pays someone $8 per hour to stand along a busy road for six hours a day with a sign reading “Obamacare Help Center- Free Enrollment.” In fact, agents across the country are discovering that the term “Obamacare” is actually a good marketing term nowadays. While some still find it offensive, the President seems to be ok with it, and most people do recognize the word and associate it with the health reform law.
Other agents have created virtual storefronts in an effort to help as many people as possible during the open enrollment period. This strategy gives consumers a website where they can do some window shopping but pairs it with a licensed agent they can talk to when they’d like to learn more and make a buying decision. Knowing clients will get the one-on-one assistance they need, the broker can spend his or her time generating additional leads.
Whatever path or paths you take, the message is clear: if you want to be successful in the individual market, you need to get creative, and that means thinking a little differently than you have in the past.