LINWOOD — Hafetz and Associates are moving up.
That’s true literally for the insurance brokerage specializing in employee-benefit programs that Scott Hafetz, of Linwood, started 30 years ago, when he was also working a second job in the showroom of the now-late Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.
Back then, Hafetz’s company consisted of him and one part-time secretary in a small corner of a Northfield building. Last month, Hafetz and Associates moved five new employees into a space upstairs at the Linwood office building that he expanded into more than 10 years ago, after several interim moves around the Atlantic County mainland.
He had been renting that roughly 1,000-square-foot upstairs space to a small law firm. And he used to have other business tenants on the second floor of his Linwood building, on Route 9, before his own company grew so much that it needed to take over its latest piece of the top floor and fill out the headquarters with that new “Medicare wing.”
Now, Hafetz and Associates has about 40 people in three offices. They include one in Middlesex County, and the latest expansion, earlier this year, was to St. Petersburg, Florida. He counts about 2,000 companies that get their employee-benefits packages through his company.
Plus Hafetz deals with 100 or so independent brokers who do business with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey through his position as one of 10 Horizon “master brokers” in the state.
Hafetz, who grew up in Margate and now lives in Linwood, says a few big changes in the health-insurance landscape are behind most of the company’s recent growth, upstairs and beyond.
One is Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. Hafetz called it by its more formal name in early advertisements that invited people shopping for their own health-insurance plans to do that shopping through his agency. But when none of the potential customers knew it by that name, he gave up and started calling it Obamacare, as his customers did.
Another change came when the company started selling Medicare supplement plans about five years ago. With an estimated 10,000 Americans a day reaching age 65, and his company able to sell coverage in states outside New Jersey, that has been a definite growth area for Hafetz and Associates. The owner says he has plans for an upcoming push specifically in Texas and Michigan.
A third development is sharp increases in security requirements for the company. All visitors to Hafetz’s Linwood office have to show a photo ID before they can get in the door. And to protect the company’s cyber-security, all workers need new temporary passwords every day before they can get into their computers.
“We’ve spent a lot of money to be compliant in the world of technology,” Hafetz says, not to mention old-fashioned locksmiths bolstering the office’s physical se–curity. “I have an outside tech person on re–tainer — he’s here a lot.”
Even after three decades of health-insurance experience, it’s hard for this industry veteran to keep up with all the changes in the business. That’s why he and his staff have to go to regular education sessions to stay current.
And it’s why he can’t imagine how inexperienced consumers go online and try to navigate through the maze on their own, without help from an agent who knows the system. That’s particularly true since the same plans cost the same amount, whether the consumer buys it online or through an agent with an established company, because the commission is built in to the cost.
“The price is the same,” Hafetz says. “So if you buy it online, you’re really paying for a service you’re not getting.”