IN THE NEWS: Who’s Hiring in the Health Industry? Scott Golden tells Health News Digest

HEALTH NEWS DIGEST, April 1, 2009

The economic downturn is taking its toll on employees in all industries — but health insurance companies will increasingly be a good place to look for work.

Although it’s unclear what direction the Obama administration will take in terms of providing more Americans with access to health insurance, what is certain is that the health insurance industry will see many changes and opportunities in the coming years. That’s good news for smart, savvy business people who are ready to step in. Following are scenarios that forceast how the industry might change — and opportunities that are likely to result.

Individual health insurance for all — If the Obama administration mandates that U.S. companies provide benefits to all of their employees, new insurance benefits firms will likely spring up to provide service to those new accounts. Why? The individual health market is currently an after-thought in the insurance business and very few insurance brokerage firms specialize in this area. However, if the government makes it cheaper for employees to buy their own coverage this will obviously be a huge opportunity for brokers who anticipate this outcome and poise themselves to respond.

Group Insurance for small businesses — If group insurance is mandated by the Obama administration, there will be a real need to help small businesses implement new plans. This is especially true for companies that do not have a human resources specialist on staff. If this scenario takes off as expected, there will not only be opportunities for health insurance brokers — but for accountants and financial experts, as well.

• Expansion of Medicare — Should the Obama administration decided to expand the Medicare program to cover individuals in addition to the elderly, it is likely to be complicated and will need to be explained to consumers. The opportunity exists for consultants and brokerage firms to step in to help translate the new programs and options. AARP is likely to benefit most, for currently it is one of the only large organizations with a system that effectively explains the specifics of Medicare and Medigap coverage to consumers. If this scenario comes to fruition, the giant lobbying group will undoubtedly expand its membership base far beyond its traditional target market of seniors ages 50 and up.

Expansion of Medigap — Expansion of the Medicare program would provide a windfall for any insurance company that can successfully explain and market Medigap policies, which allows private insurance companies to sell insurance and fill the “gaps” in Original Medicare Plan coverage. [Details can be found here: http://www.medicare.gov/medigap/Default.asp.] Currently, the government does not have an established system to cope with millions of Medigap beneficiaries so the infrastructure for this program will also need to expand as demand increases. This will be an incredible opportunity for consultants to jump in because, like Medicare, Medigap policies are complex and difficult to understand.

Writers, speakers needed — As new policies are put into place there will be a tremendous need for instructional guides and easy-to-read self-help books that teach consumers how to navigate the new health insurance options. Speakers who are versed in the policies and procedures for the new options will find plenty of work if they tap into the seminar circuit.

Golden & Cohen’s forecast

Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I have been in the health insurance industry for decades and based on that experience I believe we’ll see President Obama institute a combination of the scenarios outlined above. I am comforted to know that although change brings great uncertainty— it also brings great opportunity. Without doubt, the companies that position themselves to step in to meet the demands of any of the new regulations will be the ones to experience the most growth.

About Scott Golden, Chief Financial Office, co-owner, Golden & Cohen

Scott Golden, COO and co-owner of the health insurance brokerage firm Golden & Cohen, is an industry leader in the small to mid-size insurance market, and ranks among the area’s top producers according to the Washington Business Journal’s Annual List. He received a BS in Marketing from the University of Maryland in 1985, an MBA from George Washington University in 1990, and later a JD and LLM in taxation from the University of Baltimore. His advanced academic and legal degrees enable him to evaluate local and national mandates conjunction with helping his clients prepare and implement the proper strategy. Supporting the community is important to Scott, who advocates about the importance of lower health care rates on behalf of his clients. He has served on the Green Acres School Board of Trustees and sits on the board of ALS-DC in Maryland.

About Golden & Cohen

Founded in 1992, Golden & Cohen provides health insurance benefit services to more than 1500 clients. Based in Gaithersburg, MD, the company generated $70 million in annual sales last year and has 15 employees. For more information, visit www.golden-cohen.com.