When Seeking Help with Health Insurance Coverage, You Have Choices to Make

Many Arizonans looking for assistance with health insurance may think there is no difference between a health insurance agent vs. an independent broker. While health insurance agents and independent brokers work with individuals and families to help them evaluate and enroll in a health insurance plan, there are important distinctions between them.

Here is what you need to understand about the differences (and similarities) between health insurance agents vs. independent brokers.

Health Insurance Agent vs. Independent Broker: Both Are Paid by Insurance Companies – But Only One Works for Them

Health insurance agents work directly for or with a specific insurance company that offers health insurance plans. But an independent health insurance broker doesn’t work for an insurance company; they work for you, the consumer.

Whether you work with an agent or an independent broker, you won’t have to pay fees for their services. Brokers and agents receive their compensation directly from the insurer when they help clients choose and enroll in one of the insurer’s plans.

There are two types of health insurance agents: independent and captive agents. Independent agents work with multiple insurers, while captive agents work for a single company and only offer that company’s plans. Both captive and independent agents are paid directly by insurance companies.

Studies show that captive agents earn a salary from the insurance company they represent plus a commission, typically lower than the commission paid to independent agents. This can make a difference if you are choosing to work with an agent vs. an independent broker.

While independent brokers are paid commissions from insurers, their income does not depend on enrolling their clients in one insurance company’s plans over another. They will make the same commissions if their client selects a health insurance plan from Insurer A or Insurer B.

This means a broker’s only incentive is to suggest coverages and plans that make the most sense for the client, not what will make the broker the most money. This also can affect your decision to work with an agent vs. an independent broker.


Agents Sell Health Insurance. Brokers Don’t.

Since health insurance agents work for an insurance company, they are effectively the salespeople for the insurer. Brokers, on the other hand, don’t sell health insurance coverage. Instead, they help you choose and can assist you in enrolling in a plan.

Independent Brokers Offer More Options and Unbiased Analysis

Since independent brokers work with multiple health insurance companies, their paychecks do not depend on selling plans from any particular insurer. Brokers can provide you with lots of coverage options. Brokers also can deliver objective analysis and unbiased guidance. All of these things should affect the decision-making process for you as you choose to work with with an agent vs. an independent broker.

Knowing What You Want vs. Learning What You Need

As noted, an independent broker is an advisor who works for you, the insured, and can offer multiple plans from several carriers. A broker is likely the way to go if you need help understanding and selecting a plan. But if you know what you want and don’t need to compare options, an agent can take care of your needs and enroll you in your chosen plan.

Both Agents and Independent Brokers Must Be Qualified and Licensed

In Arizona, you can’t just set up a website or hang up a sign and call yourself a health insurance broker or agent. Anyone who wants to help individuals and businesses with health insurance must prove to the state that they have the expertise and integrity to serve their clients competently and professionally.

Brokers and agents must obtain and maintain a license issued by the Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions before they can legally offer their services. To do so, they must complete a state-approved insurance training program, pass a problematic licensing exam, and submit to a comprehensive background check.

Even after brokers and agents get their license, they must take continuing education classes to ensure that their knowledge of the ever-changing health insurance landscape is up-to-date.

Arizona Health Insurance Experts: Helping Arizonans Get Coverage for Over Four Decades

Arizona Health Insurance Experts is an Arizona-only agency directory home to the state’s most extensive collection of health insurance agents and independent brokers, offering plans from the best insurance companies. This partnership delivers the exceptional customer experience consumers deserve and the health insurance coverage and benefits they need. Find a broker near you today.