In this blog I wrote one of my most controversial articles in December 2014 titled, “The Coming End to the Health Insurance Business as We Know It – And What Brokers Can Do About It.” I don’t know why it caused a bit of an uproar in the benefits broker community because, for the most part, I am just telling people what others are saying. I also conducted a webinar on this topic in July of 2013 titled, “The Next Big Change in the Benefits Market That Most Brokers Aren’t Prepared For” that can be viewed from the HR Technology Advisors website here.
My article and webinar references a presentation by Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, who believes the end of employer based health insurance is coming soon. In fact, he is positioning Aetna for a world where the provider systems hold most of the risk and Aetna, is essentially, no longer an insurance company in the traditional sense. I found a presentation he did for the Mayo Clinic that validates Mark’s positon. You can see it here. Every benefits broker should watch it. What Mark is saying is that health insurance is going to become a direct to consumer retail purchase. The provider systems will be the risk takers not the insurance companies. And there is a movement in Washington to eliminate the health insurance deduction at the employer level in exchange for lowering the corporate tax rate. I believe this is something Republicans and Democrats agree on.
This did play out to a certain degree in my own business. We initially got a 16% increase in our health insurance premium for April 1 of this year. My broker gave us alternatives but none saved us any money. I had to ask them to quote the local hospital system based insurance plan. Their costs came in at 17% below all others. First, I am wondering why my broker did not quote this company in the first place. Second, I wonder how traditional fee for services insurance programs are going to compete with this.
It is almost 2 years since I did my first presentation on this topic. Since that time my partner Don and I have made many changes in our business to position our firm for this change. We have hired new staff and developed new consumer-centric solutions that we think will provide value in this new benefits world. We still have work to do and the market will continue to evolve. It is a bet we are making but I think not believing the CEO of Aetna, who is now merging with Humana, is a much riskier bet.
I am surprised that few, if any, brokers have made any changes to their businesses to prepare for this new health care market. Most are unaware of the magnitude of the potential changes. I don’t look at these changes as a business threat, but an opportunity. The opportunity could be huge for those that provide some value to support this change because there will be significantly fewer competitors in the new market. The value that can be brought to market and how we will get paid is certainly up for discussion. We have ideas.
I am writing this because we are looking for broker partners willing to think outside the box, and challenge the status-quo to help build and deliver a solution that can survive and thrive in the new health care world. The power of the group can be more powerful than us individually. We are not looking for people who want to fight the change and protect the status quo. And “hoping” the world doesn’t change is not a strategy. The time is now.
According to Bertolini the train has left the station. It is not if, it is when the market will change. The financial viability of America is dependent on radical changes to the delivery and cost of health care. This is not just one company, Aetna, trying to impose their view of the world on others. They are taking real action. There are a real lot of highly motivated people who are working to do the same. We can be part of the solution or hope this does not happen. Join us on this exciting journey to be part of something that will change health care in America forever.