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Photo: Getty Images

Employers often turn to brokers to help them find the right health care plan for their workers. But there's a catch: Brokers have several layers of incentives to steer companies toward plans with higher premiums.

How it works: For starters, brokers' commission is a percentage of the plan's total annual premium. Higher premium, higher commission. But there's more, as ProPublica reports.

  • Insurers offer brokers big bonuses to the agents and brokers who rake in the most business, including cash (up to $100,000 per employer) and trips to the Bahamas.
  • Those bonuses are built into the insurance plans' premiums, but the costs aren't disclosed to employers unless they ask.
  • "It's a classic conflict of interest," Eric Campbell, a University of Colorado bioethicist, told ProPublica.

Some brokers are trying to do better, switching to flat fees instead of commissions, hoping to draw a sharper contrast with agents who may not have the employer's bottom line in mind.

  • But even efforts to work around this incentive structure can go awry.
  • Morris County, New Jersey paid its broker directly, in an effort to make the broker unbiased about which plans it recommended. The broker collected that fee and also a $235,000 commission from Cigna, according to the lawsuit.
  • It also accuses the broker of hiding the costs of switching to a Cigna plan, including $800,000 in administrative fees.

Go deeper: The unclear benefits of drug price coalitions

Go deeper

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.

3 hours ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.