4 trends reshaping health insurance

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There’s no question the health insurance industry is evolving. New technology is empowering employees’ health decisions. There’s big data. Online enrollment. More choice. And, of course, there’s still the Affordable Care Act.

For employers, it’s vital to keep an eye on hot button issues and emerging trends so they can better help employees. With that said, here are four insurance issues employers should watch.

1. The future of the Affordable Care Act. 2018 culminated with the end of the Affordable Care Act 2019 renewal period and ushered in a new era of uncertainty on the future of the law. While the healthcare law moves closer to a return visit to the Supreme Court on the basis of constitutionality, benefits professionals should keep an eye on any proposed changes — and the impact they could have on employees' access to care, insurance coverage and no-charge preventive services.

2. Increasing use of predictive modeling. One of the primary drivers for innovation we see everywhere is based on the ability to access data, specifically, consumer behavioral data. The introduction of big data has led to an era where technology monitors what we’re buying, when we’re buying, what we looked at before we made our purchase, how much we paid, if we’re a repeat customer and so on. This kind of information allows employers to predict how their customers will engage with their products — essentially, a business crystal ball.

Predictive modeling has already begun to affect the employee benefits vertical as well. Giving benefits managers the ability to offer solutions specific to an employee’s age, income, current and future medical needs, medical service usage and other relevant information based on the behavior of like-minded consumers is powerful. Beyond that, new consumer tools that help people make choices based on lifestyle, prescription drug use, how frequently they visit the doctor and other factors are making for a more customized approach to healthcare.

3. Combining health data. An increasing number of employees manage and track their health, from fitness and calorie tracking to overall health management. The majority of information is monitored using apps accessible on smartphones or wearable technology. Similarly, data is being captured specific to employee benefits and utilization, from plan benefits selection and financial contributions to overall usage. Employers should acquaint themselves with health system portals featuring patient information and appointment scheduling that could be integrated in future consumer apps.

4. Increased automation. When federally facilitated and ACA state-based marketplaces opened, there was a lot of noise about the seemingly unpersonalized, automated approach to customer service. However, automated systems with built-in agent alerts for follow-up with employers are the future of our industry. Those who adopt automated client management tools in 2019 will improve the quality of their contacts and drive positive business growth. Online enrollment is one example. It’s advantageous to business owners, employees and agents. In addition, it saves time, streamlines set-up, reduces errors and allows for easy plan comparisons.

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