Is the largest enrollment firm hiding in plain sight?

In Enhanced Benefits by Eric Silverman

Most folks who consult on voluntary or, as I call it, enhanced benefits, have an enrollment arm to their business that acts as an in-house enrollment firm. They also have in-office counselors who conduct one-on-one meetings with employees to educate them on various enhanced benefit offerings. Sadly, those educational one-on-ones are too often the beginning of a product dump that inevitably leads to a commission grab. No rhyme or reason for the product selection, and they certainly don’t sync strategically with what the health benefits adviser has in place.

I don’t own an enrollment firm because I don’t want to be an enrollment firm; I already did that for many years as a carrier rep manager for a major insurance carrier. What I love is the strategy that goes into designing a bespoke enhanced benefit offering that perfectly matches what my client adviser partners have in place for health insurance. What I don’t love, is what I used to do – managing an enrollment team, which I can best describe as running an adult-daycare center. Those days are long gone. Good riddance.

With that in mind, here are some typical comments and questions I often hear from advisers when we’re establishing a partnership: “Great, you can set up a strategy, you can make recommendations, you can close the deal virtually, you can do the back-office administrative work, claims and service, you can do it all… but, what about when the employees actually sit down one-on-one? Who does that if you don’t own an enrollment firm?”

Here’s my answer: “I have access to the largest enrollment firm in the country.”

What does that mean? I use the combined sales field force of all of the major carriers that have 1099 sales reps, as well as the carrier enrollers who contractually work with enrollment firms all over the country. Many of these reps may have a full-time career as the local Carrier X lady, or Carrier Y guy, but these sales professionals are independent agents by trade. They do not get health insurance and they do not get a W-2 paycheck; they are contractors.

I outsource enrollments all across the country to these types of folks. I’ll contact a highly recommended veteran rep for Carrier X who lives and works in Small Town, USA, and let her know what the broker and I need and that it is not going to be selling Carrier X insurance, but rather, Carrier Y, Z and maybe even a few others.

This gives the 1099 independent contractor the opportunity to use their valuable skillsets to sit down and counsel employees one-on-one and enroll, although not with their core, full-time carrier. At the end of the day, these opportunities create new revenue for enrollers that they would not otherwise have. There is no law or contract in place that stops them from earning with a competitive carrier that happens to not be their full-time carrier of choice.

Labels matter 

I keep using the term 1099 on purpose. This is because a lot of times — it happened twice recently, in fact — they think that they are employees of these carriers, so they turn down the opportunity presented to them.

In one recent conversation I had with a successful veteran Carrier X rep, she was actually requested by the account and the adviser. Nonetheless, four times during our chat she said she couldn’t do anything on the side as it was in violation of her contract with her full-time carrier of choice. This is not factual what-so-ever.

She said she’s under contract and she’s not allowed to do anything outside of Carrier X. When I get this response, I always ask, “Are you a W-2 employee of Carrier X?” And their response 100 percent of the time is, “No.”

My advice, and I have yet to be been proven wrong, is go read your contract. Where in your contract does it say you’re not allowed to sell other carrier products, competitive or not, and other insurance solutions? Then ask your W-2 manager, whomever you report to at Carrier X, to put in writing that you are not allowed to sell similar products with other carriers.

They will never get a response in writing from a carrier’s W-2 employee because it’s simply not true. They’re not locked in, in the way they’re often made to think they are. It’s tragic, because these incredible carrier reps are being misled and lied to — thus, losing money for themselves and their families and an opportunity to do more of what they’re great at doing.

I’m not the only one who brings in terrific enrollers this way. There are large enrollment firms all over the country, often started by former carrier reps, staffed with 1099 commissioned salespeople. These firms brag about hundreds and thousands of enrollers who cover the country, many of whom are full-time sales reps for the major carriers who moonlight on the side with these enrollment firms.

At the end of the day, an accident plan is an accident plan. Yeah, there’s going to be differences and some accident plans are better than others, but if you’re an expert at selling your full-time carrier’s accident plan, the reality is you can sell it with any other carrier. It’s just a different logo on the front of the brochure.

This is very different than flipping business, whereby you’re taking an existing account with Carrier X and blatantly churning the policies to Carrier Y in order to grab a commission and make money. That is not only illegal and immoral, but also considered a breach of contract, even for 1099 employees.

Most carrier reps fully admit to me that they’ve never read their 1099 contract. When I reach out to offer a solid veteran enroller an opportunity to help with a case somewhere around the country, it’s for a specific project, usually short-term and case-by-case. I’m never looking to recruit someone away from their current full-time career, I’m simply offering them a way to help themselves while helping a local adviser and account in their market that they never would have had access too otherwise. The irony is that the carrier rep, once proven, can very often get new cases with their actual carrier of choice dropped in their lap; but unfortunately, many carrier reps never see this because they turned down the opportunity without ever realizing it.