Evolving with the times
The Rauser Agency opens Mequon office, begins selling Obama’s ACA Marketplace insurance

By Dave Fidlin - News Graphic Correspondent

Jan. 20, 2015

 Jon Rauser closed his office in a high-rise building in downtown Milwaukee and opened a location in the Mequon Pavilions shopping center.
Photo by Mark Justesen

In his more than three decades working in the insurance industry, Jon Rauser has undeniably witnessed many changes.

Last year’s implementation of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was one of the most significant game-changers. But through the initial murkiness of the law and its implications, Rauser crafted a clear vision for his business.

For most of its existence, The Rauser Agency operated within a high-rise office building in downtown Milwaukee, primarily selling health insurance plans to small employers.

“My bread-and-butter client has been employers with around 30 employees,” said Rauser, who opened his agency in 1981. “But when I saw new opportunities, I decided to close my fancy-shmancy office and make some changes.”

In October 2013, Rauser turned his business on its head, betting that he could carve out a niche by selling individual and family health insurance plans to people buying through the marketplace that was created out of the ACA.

“For Joe lunch bucket, it’s like speaking Greek,” Rauser said of the process involved in selecting an individual or family health care plan.

 Jon Rauser, a town of Grafton resident, has focused his business on helping individuals get health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Photo by Mark Justesen

As he made significant tweaks to his business model, Rauser opened two smaller offices, each with storefront accessibility. Rauser has maintained a presence in downtown Milwaukee, but also opened his first satellite office in Mequon.

The changes, he said, are overtures to his new clientele. While he still works with small businesses, Rauser said he and his fellow agents are increasingly helping individual persons wade through the complexities of the ACA.

With the ACA still in its infancy, Rauser said he has carved out a niche for his business. While brokers frequently sell insurance to individuals and families to cover home and automobile ownership, Rauser said there still are relatively few who do so with health insurance.

When asked why he chose to open a second office in Mequon, Rauser offered up several reasons - including one of logistics. He is a town of Grafton resident, and his commute has been reduced several days each week.

But Rauser said he also saw an opportunity and wanted to strike while the proverbial iron was hot. He asserted there are fewer brokers in the suburbs who are offering health insurance.

“Mequon has turned out to be an excellent spot for us,” he said. “(The Mequon Pavilions shopping center) is a high-traffic destination. It’s a highly desirable area.”

Despite building from the ground up in Ozaukee County, Rauser said there has been a high degree of interest - particularly in the new year as more people are switching from traditional health plans to those covered under the provisions of the ACA marketplace.

Eventually, Rauser said he would like to open additional offices. He named Brookfield and Franklin as two other communities on his wish list.

“I would like to serve all corners of the Milwaukee metropolitan area,” Rauser said. “I think I am onto something. There aren’t a lot of agencies doing on what I’m doing.”

Rauser said he envisions more small businesses ceasing offering health insurance in the road ahead. Referring those displaced customers to new plans, he said, can bring dividends to his business.

Health insurance consumers do not pay an additional fee for signing up with a plan through a broker, but Rauser and his team do get a small cut each time they work as a middleman.

“Our services are already baked into the premium,” Rauser said. “People pay the same premium, regardless of whether or not they work with an agent.”

Perhaps one reason brokers have been slow to sell ACA-compliant individual and family health insurance products to consumers has been the certification process. To qualify linking consumers to the ACA marketplace, Rauser and his team had to undergo a certificate-training course.

But for Rauser, the intensive exercise has been a worthwhile endeavor.

“Some of the marketplace is still evolving, and things have been changing,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers, but we’re moving forward. I think we’re on the right track.”