Employer-based coverage will continue to dominate the health insurance landscape by 2021. But individual health exchanges can gain ground as more workers become freelancers and independent entrepreneurs.
It was one of ten trends in health insurance and voluntary benefits that were discussed during a recent webinar by the Aite Group. Here’s an overview of these 10 trends and what Aite’s analysts had to say about them.
Trend 1: Individual health exchanges are finding new interest. The rise of freelancers and entrepreneurs along with the rise in the number of unemployed Americans as the pandemic means there are changes in employer-based coverage, says Michael Trilling, research director for Aite. But, he said, even before the pandemic, employers were looking for opportunities to reduce the cost of health insurance.
The employer channel will remain dominant, Trilling said, but more people will look for coverage on individual health exchanges.
Trend 2: It is clear, set, slow for ICHRAs. Individual health benefit schemes are company-funded, tax-distributed health benefits used to reimburse employees for personal health expenses. Trilling said ICHRAs can be a tool that employers can use, but before ICHRAs come into their own, distribution brokers need to figure out how to overcome obstacles like crystallization of distribution channels.
Trend 3: Employers see value in personalized benefits. Employers are aware of the importance of health insurance and voluntary benefits to their workers, said Inci Kaya, senior analyst at Aite. But employers are also aware that when it comes to the benefits of their workers, one size fits all. Kaya predicted a greater interest among employers and workers in products such as critical illness insurance, care assistance and long-term care insurance.
Trend 4: Student loan repayment programs are becoming commonplace. Kaya cited a study conducted by the American Students System that showed that 86% of young employees would stay with an employer for five years or more if the employer would help them with their student debt.
Trend 5: Financial guidance is becoming a differentiator. Manoj Upredi, Aite senior life and annuity analyst, said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how much financial stress employees experience and how this stress negatively affects their work performance. Workers are showing greater interest in economical wellness tools tailored to their needs.
Trend 6: Telehealth offers a lifeline for mental health. Use of telehealth for mental health services increased during the pandemic, Upredi said, predicting that consumers would continue to benefit from telehealth.
Trend 7: Transparency removes the lid from the pay-provider relationship. Aite’s analysts said they expect ongoing bargaining and prayer for the postponement of price transparency measures, led by health plans and health providers. This year will not be the year when health prices are clarified once and for all. But it will be the year when the transparency process begins in earnest.
Trend 8: The shift to the left captures steam for fraud prevention. The way to sip fraud, waste and abuse in the bud and get payments made exactly the first time is going upstream, Trilling said. Suppliers now have a strong set of predictable analytics tools at their disposal. These tools can consume data from a growing set of sources, medical and otherwise, not just historical medical claims and wipe out scams.
Trend 9: The market for refunds welcomes digital payments. Payers want to increase digital payment options and give providers a different payment experience, Trilling said.
Trend 10: A new consumer payment plan emerges. Consumers want more options for paying bills, including more digital payment options.
Susan Rupe is the managing editor of InsuranceNewsNet. She previously served as communications director for an insurance agents’ association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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