By Steve Valenti
The human body functions as a holistic and well-coordinated system, yet the health insurance industry hasn’t traditionally had a coordinated approach, offering products separately and thereby creating silos. With medical, vision, dental, life, disability, absence/FML and supplemental health separated from each other without effective coordination, consumers and health care providers often have a disconnected view of a person’s total health and gaps in care can develop. However, a growing trend in the design of health care benefits is emerging which allows claims data and population insights to address “whole person health” through integrated health care. This puts the consumer at the center and simplifies the health care experience.
For brokers and consultants, this offers a unique opportunity to engage employers and show them how integrated health care can lower their health care costs, provide them with a simplified administration process and positively impact their employees’ health outcomes while also improving workforce productivity.
Many employers already recognize the value of integrating their health benefit plans. According to a recent study conducted by Anthem, 71% of employers surveyed are either actively integrating or considering integrating their medical, vision, dental, pharmacy and/or disability benefits in the next five years – this represents an 11% increase from data collected in 2016. The study also found that among those surveyed who are actively integrating or considering integrating benefits nearly 100% of them reported integrating medical plans with pharmacy, vision, dental and/or disability benefits and the overwhelming preference is for integration with a single insurance carrier versus multiple carriers.
Additionally, the reason employers are, or considering, integrating has shifted over the last few years from seeking cost savings to recognizing that integration leads to a healthier and happier workforce. Anthem’s survey found that the ‘happiness factor’ is a workforce advantage with 88% of employers agreeing that integrated health care benefit programs make an organization a place where people want to work. While the cost and ease of administration remain important business imperatives to employers, there is a noticeable shift toward creating and retaining a more satisfied and healthier workforce as a driver of integration.
So, how can brokers and consultants discuss integrated health care to get a competitive edge and enhance their clients’ health benefits at no additional cost? Here are three tips to consider when making a shift from the traditional, siloed benefits approach to a modern, connected employee benefits portfolio:
- Don’t wait – It’s a common myth among some benefit advisors that integrated health care should only be implemented when financial return on investment (ROI) can be proved. However, in reality, the majority of employers surveyed (55%) measure success by employee engagement versus financial ROI (27%). As the insurance industry continues to evolve there will be more proof points about the value of integrated health care but the empirical evidence is clear that a shift is happening and employers want integrated benefits. Brokers and consultants should be discussing integrated plans with their clients now in order to meet both their current and near future needs.
- Break down silos – When discussing benefit plans with clients, rather than presenting benefits in silos – 30 minutes presenting medical, 10 on dental, 10 on vision, etc. – brokers and consultants should consider a solution-centric approach that looks at the entire needs of clients. Integrating ancillary products as part of the overall story shows how a ‘whole person health’ approach delivers better care, simplifies the administration and consumer experience, and reduces costs.
- Engage with carriers – If you are considering how to incorporate integrated health care in your presentation or have any questions, reach out to carriers that offer integrated benefits to learn more. Many carriers may also have a representative available who can go with you to client meetings and assist with your presentations. But be careful with this approach, while many carriers may claim to be integrated, some just have one-way data feeds that don’t actually connect information in a meaningful way. Make sure you are speaking with carriers that can demonstrate real-time, auto-sharing of information that is truly integrated across the entire care experience.
The bottom line is that integrated health benefits are a topic that is top of mind with many employers and they’re looking for brokers and consultants who can bring solutions to meet their needs. Brokers and consultants have the real opportunity to be leaders in this new direction, so don’t risk leaving the door open to other benefit advisors who are ready to have these discussion with clients and prospective clients.
Steve Valenti is Anthem’s vice president of specialty distribution responsible for further developing our integrated distribution strategy with local group and national accounts, and leading the execution of our sales and account management growth plans. Steve is a proven leader with a track record of success and extensive specialty market knowledge. Since joining Anthem in May 2014 to lead our Specialty East Region, Steve has been an instrumental part of driving Specialty’s profitable sales growth and developing exciting transformation initiatives.