Most Small Businesses Value Their Broker-agent in Healthcare Insurance Purchases, HBEX Poll Finds

An overwhelming majority of small-business owners in California have a high level of trust in their own broker-agent, and will look to insurance broker-agents for more information on the coverage options that will be provided by the California Health Benefits Exchange (HBEX), according to a survey conducted on behalf of HBEX, its directors were told at a meeting here this week.  Although the poll found only limited awareness of the Exchange, more than half of small-business owners polled said--once pollsters explained what the Exchange was--that they were likely to participate in the Exchange, and that the Exchange would make it more likely that they would provide health benefits to employees in the future, the poll also found.

The poll, funded by The California Endowment, was conducted by Pacific Communmity Ventures, a non-profit community development financial institution, and Lake Research Partners, and was comprised of focus groups in Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, a telephone survey of 800 small businesses (with fewer than 20 employees) in California, and in-depth interviews with selected participants.

Over 70 percent of poll respondents who currently use a broker-agent said they would prefer to continue using their broker-agent, either with or without the exchange.

"These are very interesting poll results," said IBA West General Counsel Steve Young.  "If accurate, they portend both clear opportunities and clear dangers for broker-agents who provide benefits coverages and related services to small businesses."

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of small-business owners polled said they had little confidence in the ability of a government entity to provide efficient health benefits options, prompting board members to comment that the Exchange website should not have a "dot-GOV" domain.  "Messaging about the Exchange should highlight cost reduction and simplicity, and downplay the role of government," was one of the "key findings" pollsters announced.

The Exchange has received a federal grant of $39 million to help the State of California plan for and design a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase competitively priced health plans using federal tax subsidies and tax credits beginning in 2014.

A PowerPoint slide presentation, "Presentation on Small Business Healthcare Decision Making in California," summarizing all of the poll findings, can be downloaded by clicking here. The file is large and may take a few minutes to open.