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Role of the Health Inurance Agent in the Health Care Delivery System

Role of the Agent

Historically, the agent system has been the primary method of distribution for private health insurance.  Agents are the essential link between the consumer and the insurance company, providing personal service in the selection of insurance coverage that meets the clients’ needs.

Dramatic increases in health care costs in the last decade have made the agent an increasingly important part of the health care equation.  More than ever, individuals and businesses rely on the advice of their agents regarding cost savings measures and coverage options.

Insurance agents, like elected officials, are held accountable to their constituents. Agents must assure that the clients’ needs are appropriately satisfied. Because an insured has the ability to change agents with little or no notice, agents are essentially “up for re-election” everyday.

Value of the Agent

The commission or other compensation earned by the insurance agent not only compensates the agent for the sale of a product but, in addition, professional agents perform these other basic services for the health consumer:         

Health Insurance Agents -- Trained Professionals

All agents are licensed and regulated by their state insurance department.  Prospective agents receive extensive training about insurance and applicable insurance law prior to taking a written exam leading to licensing.  In addition, a majority of states now require continuing education in order for an agent to maintain his or her license. 

Many agents who have made health insurance a career have taken a sequence of college-level courses leading to a professional designation, such as the Registered Health Underwriter (RHU), Registered Employee Benefit Consultant (REBC), Health Insurance Associate (HIA), Certification in Long-Term Care (CLTC) or Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS).

Other insurance designations earned by agents, such as the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF), also include health insurance as part of their curriculum.

Agent Associations

Most career agents belong to professional associations.  A life and health insurance agent may belong to a local chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA).

This professional organization provides seminars, workshops, annual meetings and other educational forums to increase an agent's value to his or her clients.  They also keep agents abreast of the latest insurance products and regulations through publications and special bulletins.  Just as important to the consumer, they require their members to subscribe to a strict code of ethics and encourage them to aspire to a high level of service.