By July 17, 2013 | BenefitsPro

Nearly half of brokers might be on their way out, just when employers and employees need them most.

There’s no question that the nation’s health care system is in a state of change and unrest — and it looks like a good number of health insurance brokers are sick and tired of it.

Nearly half of America’s brokers (45 percent) say they’re considering exiting the health insurance business altogether, with the majority (51 percent) saying they are only slightly or not at all confident about the future of their firm and their industry, according to an Aflac WorkForces survey, out Wednesday.

Wide-ranging changes in health care — notably the Patient Protection and Affordable Act — and economic unrest are causing brokers’ self-doubt, Aflac reported, just as employers and employees say they need brokers most.

Almost one-third of brokers (29 percent) say they’re concerned about remaining relevant to their clients, the report found.

Though brokers’ concerns over their future have been widely reported, albeit anecdotally, Aflac’s survey of more than 300 brokers offered a clearer picture of how many are thinking about leaving the business.

The numbers left some in the industry puzzled.

“It surprises me,” David Smith, vice president of health and welfare benefits at North Carolina-based Ebenconcepts, said of the results. “Most of the professionals I know are not planning on leaving the business. I’m sure there are people who do nothing but the occasional health insurance policy who may now decide to get out of the business.”

The survey comes at a time when workers and employers say they want more help from brokers and benefits experts as they try to make sense of health care changes — especially as PPACA goes into effect.

Other big changes employers need help with? The movement from HMO and PPO plans to consumer-driven options as well as implementing wellness programs.

According to Aflac’s report, the majority of employees (78 percent) at least somewhat agree they would be more informed about their health insurance choices if they worked with an insurance consultant during benefits enrollment; more than one-third (35 percent) of those questioned strongly or completely agree with that statement.