Four Top Trends Impacting Small Groups in 2020

Welcome to 2020! We’re kicking it off right by bringing you 20 voices germaine to the California Broker world. Of course, this is not a ranking or top 20 list. We do think our contributors are tops, but we’ve merely arranged the pieces in alphabetical order by last name. You’ll see that we have some longer contributions and some short Q&As and conversations. Our aim was to mix it up—and invite a few fresh faces to contribute along with a few regulars. Read on for what’s on these folks’ minds for 2020….

By Michael Payton, VP of Sales, CHOICE Administrators

2020 is here and employers and employees alike are asking for–and expecting–increased price transparency and more plan choices.
Now more than ever, there are growing concerns about employer-sponsored health insurance due to increasing deductible costs and the larger impact on the affordability of health insurance. It is no longer just about premiums, but rather, the high out-of-pocket expenses that consumers face on a consistent basis.

While the rising cost of healthcare has sparked debate within the policy-making community, it’s also created an opportunity for benefits professionals to provide increased value to their clients. Brokers are in a unique position to educate employers on changing trends, how they will impact coverage and service, and strategies to continue to meet employee healthcare needs in the years ahead. Diving in now will allow brokers to be more effective when working with small group clients as they plan for 2020.

Below are four trends set to impact the small business market in 2020:

  1. Increasing demand for choice: Modern workplaces are more generationally diverse than ever before. It is fairly common today to find millennials (born 1980-2000) working alongside Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-79), and Generation Z (2000 or later).

As Deloitte’s 2017 Insight study found, changing immigration patterns are also reshaping the labor force, with more identification by gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, culture and religion in the workplace today. This can become a challenge for employers looking to provide health insurance options to an employee population with varying needs. For example, a young, single person just beginning his or her professional career has significantly different health care needs when compared to a more seasoned employee with a family.

To complicate matters further, today’s myriad health insurance options can lead to confusion for both employers and employees, especially when physician accessibility enters the conversation. The good news is that benefit professionals can provide expertise to simplify the process. Brokers poised to succeed are those whose guidance can help their clients hone in on the range of plans available, coupled with how to access a broad network of options to ensure varying needs are met–while still controlling costs.

  1. Deductible transparency: As the price of health insurance continues to rise, so do plan deductibles. Within the last several months, media outlets including the Los Angeles Times have reported on rising health insurance deductibles and their impact on affordability for workers. It is clear that there is a greater concern among employers and employees about financial security. This is especially true if there is an unexpected hospital visit or medical procedure in their future.

Brokers who stay apprised of the latest pricing fluctuations will position themselves for victory in a competitive market. Providing business owners and their employees with timely insight and counsel into multiple health plan options, a range of deductibles, application of deductibles on different services, and the potential out-of-pocket financial implications secures the broker’s place as a trusted and valued partner.

  1. Decision-making tools: Consumers are accustomed to researching information online and comparing products and services in real time. Looking up product reviews on Amazon or restaurants and other services on Yelp is the norm, rather than the exception. Healthcare plan comparisons and provider searches are no different. Benefits professionals can better serve the needs of their groups and members if they partner with carriers and exchanges (both public and private) that offer traditional and ancillary plan comparison tools as well as web-based doctor and hospital directories.

Cost estimators to research out-of-pocket expenses and/or the potential charges for planned procedures (like a baby or expected surgery) can be valuable as well. They can be useful in helping employees narrow their plan choices based on the coverage of different services. Cost estimators also allow users to compare average provider costs (in- and out-of-network), view the average cost for specific treatments, and look up quality ratings and reviews concerning healthcare providers.

Many health plans and exchanges offer estimator tools. The Kaiser Family Foundation launched its own interactive calculator earlier this year. The tool gives users the ability to generate a cost estimate based on a variety of scenarios, including family size, income, insurance source, and health.

  1. Online enrollment (OLE): Technology simplifies our daily lives in so many ways that it is easy to take it for granted. It also plays an important role in managing health. Whether it’s tracking fitness levels on an Apple Watch or Fitbit, scheduling doctor appointments online, or reviewing test results on a smartphone, people expect quick and efficient ways to access information related to their health. That extends to health insurance information, too.

OLE platforms make it easy to enroll in benefits, access health-related information, and streamline the onboarding process for new employees. Online enrollment can also boost employee and dependent participation (as compared to paper applications), and it’s easy to track and identify those employees who still need to complete their enrollment. Best of all, because employees often enter much of their own information, OLE can reduce errors and expedite a client group’s underwriting–delivering a more satisfying experience for everyone.

Brokers who are tech savvy and able to provide strategic insights on the benefits of online enrollment, along with features that increase efficiencies for small group clients, are in a great position to empower employers and workers.

Choice, price transparency, and technology will continue to drive the health insurance industry–in 2020 and for years to come. Brokers who stay on top of these trends have the opportunity to solidify the overall value and expertise they provide to small business clients and their employees now and in the future.

Michael Payton is VP of Sales at Orange, California-based CHOICE Administrators, where he is responsible for all products and distribution for the CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier, small business private health exchange and the Choice Builder ancillary benefits exchange. Prior to joining CHOICE Administrators in 2012 as national sales director for Choice Builder, he owned an employee benefits consulting firm and was a small business division sales leader at UnitedHealthcare.