Interesting article: “Agents Take Center Stage in Individual Medical Market” in the February 19, 2007 issue of National Underwriter Life and Health. The article was written by Laura Hohing, CLU and senior vice president of sales at Assurant Health, Milwaukee. We’ve never met, but she sounds like someone I’d definitely classify as an insurance technology guru.

I read a print version of the article. But it will be online for another week or so at National Underwriter Life and Health. (You’ll have to register to get access — it’s free.)

She writes “There’s a revolution stirring in today’s medical insurance market, and it’s changing the playing field for consumers, carriers, and agents. Spiraling costs are driving millions of consumers toward the individual medical market, where flexible and cost-effective policies enable them to manage their risks and their costs.”

What better way to help meet that revolution than through technology. As more and more people look for individual medical policies, a high percentage of their searches are sure to be online. Carriers will come out ahead if they offer clear and concise Web pages, simple tools for quotes, competitive product pricing and benefits (side x side with other offerings), flexible products so people feel in charge, and the ease of online or call-center enrollment. It’s a lot to bite off all at once, but if you have experience, it shouldn’t take more than a few months to roll-out a solution like this.

As Laura writes, “Agents also benefit from tools that simplify and streamline the application process. When agents recommend a policy and carrier, they need fast answers about whether their client will qualify for coverage, and under what conditions. With some carriers, agents can now create customized quotes in real time and help their clients fill out and submit online applications.” I say Amen to that! Assurant (previously Fortis) has been doing this for some time, especially in the short-term medical space. They know it works and would NEVER go back to doing it the old way.

Although Laura’s main focus was the need for carriers to provide appropriate products and services, I see it as reinforcement of the critical role effective online services play. If I can toot our horn just for a second, IdeaStar insurance clients have proven time and time again the value of online quoting, enrollment, and other front end services. Our online systems have saved many companies, time, costs, and hassles, not to mention establishing the foundation for long-term competitive advantage.

De Colores!