An ambitious effort by some of the North Bay's top employee benefit brokers to reduce health insurance costs for employers is being delayed by several months, the result of brokers being swamped with what is arguably the busiest open-enrollment season on record.
The Task Force on Lowering Insurance Costs was announced in late August, modeled on a similar effort for Fortune 500 companies that brokers said was not available to mid-sized employers throughout the state.
Brokers involved in the project are: Keith McNeil and Jordan Shields of the SSM Group, a Novato-based division of national brokerage United Benefits Advisors; Victor McKnight of EPIC Insurance Brokers in Petaluma; John Fradelizio and Bud Martin of Wells Fargo Insurance Services in Petaluma; John Zervakos of Willis Insurance Services of California in San Francisco; and Jim Settles and Chris Reiter of Wooduff-Sawyer & Co. in Novato.
With the looming implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including enrollment that begins tomorrow, Mr. McNeil said brokers are simply swamped.
"In talking to the broker partners, it became obvious that with all of the end-of-the-year renewal activity, along with the added complexity due to the ACA, it would be better to postpone the meetings until mid-January," he said. "At that point, we hope the employers will be past the immediate renewal issues and then able to consider possible long-term solutions."
Between now and then, Mr. McNeil said the Task Force partners would work to add more meetings in January, "so that the meetings then should be more detailed and helpful than the more introductory meetings that were planned." The group initially hoped to begin meeting with employers last week.
The intent of the Task Force, inspired in part by the Pacific Business Group on Health, is to collectively come up with solutions for employers through a non-profit entity, where mid-sized employers could potentially benefit from sharing best practices, advocating as a group with health plans and potentially even combine purchasing power.
Burnham Benefits Insurance Services recently brought on two new members to its San Rafael branch, which opened earlier this year. Senior Account Executive Laurel McClay and Account Executive Michele M. Dang will support the firm’s growth and expansion in the Northern California market.
Ms. McClay joins Burnham Benefits with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry. Prior to joining Burnham, Ms. McClay served in executive roles with several major national firms working with clients on both local and national levels. Ms. Dang brings more than 25 years of industry experience to her role as account executive with Burnham Benefits.
Irvine-based Burnham Benefits expanded into Marin County earlier this year, led by San Francisco insurance veteran Michael Michalski, who joined as an equity partner and regional president.
“Laurel and Michele’s combined experience in the industry will make a huge impact on expanding the level of service we can provide to the region,” Mr. Michalski said.
Burnham has four offices in California: Irvine, San Rafael, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, as well as offices in Oregon and the Washington D.C. metro area.
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company announced the appointment of Eric Brandt to the position of chief claims officer, responsible for leading the claims and risk services division.
A 20-year veteran of the insurance industry, Mr. Brandt has held a variety of claims leadership positions at The Hartford and Progressive Insurance. Mr. Brandt most recently served as senior vice president of claims at The Hartford, where he was responsible for leading both the group benefits division and unbundled specialty casualty business.