Forum: Health insurance options should include flexibility, personalization and transparency – Minneapolis Star Tribune

A colleague of mine once commented that health insurance operates on a “Flintstones” chassis. In many ways, she’s right.

In what other industry are you forced to purchase a product before knowing the cost? When else is your breadth of options hidden from you? In what other situation do prices vary by sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for the same service? From what other modern business model do you expect absolutely no personalization?

I’m not here to argue that health insurance can operate on a “Jetsons” chassis — yet — but times are changing. You can and should expect more from your health benefits experience. Insurance technology companies have raised multiple billions of dollars in recent years. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, insurtech companies raised more than $2.5 billion across 146 deals.

Innovation is happening like never before, and modern ideals are coming to health benefits— finally. Employers and employees, like you, are ready. In fact, both parties agree that health care is the benefit that needs the most improvement.

This annual enrollment season, your company may present you with new, improved and different health benefit options. Here are some ways to look at them.

Financial peace-of-mind. Sixty-two percent of employers feel “extreme responsibility” for their employees’ financial wellness — a significant jump from 13% in 2013. Unfortunately, the current health care system has you make care decisions in the dark that carry potentially big financial consequences.

You probably know the amount you pay each month out of your paycheck for your health insurance. And you may even know the amount of your deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, or what your copay is for a regular office visit. All great things to know, but it’s also possible to price shop for care and know exactly how much it will cost you, in advance. From giving birth to treating a broken arm, it actually is possible for health insurers to provide a single price for a procedure based on actuarial averages that include things like facility fees, practitioner fees, medications and supplies.

Employers have the opportunity, today, to turn your health benefits into a consumer marketplace where you can search your health condition and find instant answers.

Choice and flexibility. It’s possible to explore your health care options and shop for care the same way you do for other things in your daily life. Imagine seeing, in real time, the breadth of treatment options that could solve any given medical condition, along with a list of providers who are best at treating each condition.

You should also have flexibility in where you seek care. One positive outcome of the pandemic is that consumers and the health care industry are realizing and appreciating the power of telehealth and remote-care tools. You will continue to see these options be incentivized and expanded.

Personalization. Personalized consumer experiences have become standard. You search for a product online and the search results are contextualized based on what the retailer knows about you from previous searches and purchases. Health plans can — and should — be personalized to your individual needs, too. Personalized health coverage is meant to protect your long-term health by helping you navigate barriers to care that are much too common in health care.

Employers are more focused than ever on factors that enhance health equitytaking into account social determinants of health (SDOH) that contribute to health disparities. Personalized coverage for SDOH and whole-person needs

Whole-person health. Employers are more focused than ever on factors that enhance health equity. Personalized coverage for whole-person needs — like mental health, nutrition, fitness and other nonmedical activities proven to improve health and well-being — is the future of health insurance. This emphasis, as well as personalization and other factors, can help employers meet the needs of a diversifying workforce.

The elephant in the room is employee buy-in. Are you ready to move toward a “Jetsons” future?

Moving away from a plan you’ve been enrolled in for years can feel scary.

But Fred and Wilma may not be able to serve many of your modern-day needs, and there comes a point when the benefits far outweigh the fear or risk of change.

Only you can determine when the scale reaches that tipping point. Being well educated on new benefit offerings puts you in the best position to determine the plan that’s right for you and your loved ones.

Susan Hames is the chief experience officer at Bind Benefits.

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