Lisa Williams is an insurance and education specialist, a mother and wife, and a business owner. Based in Flower Mound, Texas, she is determined to unveil the secrets of how benefits work through educating and empowering individuals everywhere to make informed decisions about health care and insurance benefit plans. Lisa’s credentials include a General Life and Health Insurance license and LHIC license (Life Health Insurance Counselor), both through the Texas Department of Insurance. She most recently completed all CMS training and testing to assist with the federally-facilitated marketplaces for individuals and businesses. In 2013, Lisa’s growing agency was not only awarded an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, but she was also personally awarded the honor of being a National Association of Professional Women’s VIP Woman of the Year.
What are your thoughts on the Affordable Care Act?
Tricky Question. I think the Affordable Care Act was created with noble stated intentions: To provide benefits for the many individuals that need medical care for themselves and their families that historically have not been able to afford it. Where it gets tricky is that the Affordable Care Act, in my humble opinion, didn’t “fix” this. Addressing the insurance piece of the entire health care industry simply kicked the can down the road by moving the problem to the next step. What I mean is that you have insurance to help with medical related expenses for medical care at hospitals or pharmacies or with private doctors. If you can’t afford the insurance, you have to pay out of pocket, or go without. If you force carriers to fit within molds that are not financially feasible, they are required to adjust where they can to be compliant within the laws … so they reduce networks and raise premiums for younger, healthier individuals. The results have young and healthy individuals choosing to pay the penalty if they are required to purchase without having it paid by an employer, and even those who purchase coverage are seeing their doctors removed from the networks resulting in out-of-pocket costs for the insured once again. The focus of ACA should have been on educating the consumers and requiring them to “do some work” by finding out what the costs are for procedures, physician visits, and medications, so they could choose wisely and not stick with a provider or hospital that bills excessively.
ACA is one of the most talked about issues in the industry right now, what is an issue that doesn’t get talked about enough?
Consumer responsibilities for their healthcare and costs.
How does your company or practice address that issue?
Education. Education. Education. In addition to education, we provide information to every individual of every company we work with to make sure they have access to the tools that price medical procedures and medications online, on their smart phones, or by phone. When we work with self-funded groups, we’ll discuss the option to have requirements in the plan documents that require individuals to price procedures (non-emergency only) and medications in order to receive the full benefit of what the insurance plan covers. If they choose not to do so, they still receive benefits up to the full fair price, but the excessive charges are not eligible expenses and are paid by the individual. We make sure that employees are educated so they know what to look for and what to ask if they have questions in the future, no matter who their agent is. We also make sure these types of tools are available on our website with all of their different insurance plan details 24/7 for our clients, including their account numbers for each carrier and the contact phone numbers for the specific services if they prefer to call in. We empower them to make informed decisions, whatever their decisions may be.
It’s been said that “selling insurance” is the most difficult job in the world. In your opinion, is that true and why?
I think “selling insurance” is one of the easiest jobs. However, educating the person or company looking to buy insurance, and working through the multiple layers of pros and cons for each type of plan and carrier features, is definitely one of the most difficult jobs in the world. It is also extremely rewarding when you know you’ve made a difference, not just a sale. It takes an overall understanding of more than just insurance as well as a lot of patience and knowledge (or knowledgeable resources) to truly provide insurance benefits that fit what each individual needs rather than fitting the individual into what agents want to sell for their own comfort, commission levels, or company restrictions.
To what do you attribute the recent buzz around IULs?
I think the protection from downturns in the market while retaining the ability to increase in value above the standard rates make IULs a popular topic along with indexed annuities. Just like any other product, it is important to fit the product to the person though, and not the other way around, or it will end up with bad publicity. I personally think the products are great, and even with the higher price tags above traditional term life policies, they will continue to grow in popularity.
What, in your opinion, do agents look for in carriers, IMOS, etc.? Are carriers and IMOs delivering these needs to agents?
I think agents aren’t sure what to look for most times, and they “go with what they know”—primarily new agents. Without a strong understanding of the overall business, many agents will align with carriers offering the most competitive compensation packages for the products sold, regardless of the benefits to the clients. As for IMOs, I think agents look for access to multiple carriers in one place, and again, they look for the highest compensation packages along with trips, cash bonuses, and other incentives. We provide incentives like additional training, gym memberships, and even cars for our outstanding agents in addition to compensation; and that is great for some agents, but not all. Each agent is different in what they see as balance (work-life-health balance). For any carrier or IMO focusing on agents, these things should be considered. Regulations for compliance may dictate many of the steps that are followed, but at some point, it has to be understood that each of these agents is a person with a family and dreams. Most carriers and IMOs do not work with them in this way because it creates a little bit away from the profit margin … but it adds exponentially to the profits for the few that do it correctly.
What is your ideal/favorite product to sell and why?
Wow! Depends on the client and the day really. If I had to pick one product though, I would say the accident policy or the critical illness policy. They are supplemental policies … meaning they supplement the other coverage in place for an individual, but they can also work as stand-alone when needed. I typically present them side-by-side or bundled due to how they work, and the particular carrier will vary depending on the group and the demographics so the needs of the individuals are met. The way I see it, even when you have a wonderful health insurance plan with maybe only $2,000 total out-of-pocket costs for the year, there is still the chance that the unexpected is going to happen resulting in a requirement to pay that total maximum all at once. Unfortunately, that will usually coincide with time off work and possibly reduced or no income.