29 Things I Learned at EBN’s Private Healthcare Exchanges NY Conference
By Jami Kelmenson
As I rode up in the elevator to attend Employee Benefits News’ Private Healthcare Exchanges Conference in New York, I heard a woman say to her colleague, “Do you think this will be exciting?” He didn’t really answer, but sort of shrugged. Then she laughed, yawned, and said, “Well I think I will learn a lot.” No, that woman was not me, but I did learn a lot, and will share some of the highlights of the day from insurance brokers, providers, consultants, clients and a host of private exchange visionaries, here.
1. Employers are evolving from “What is a private exchange?” to “Which private exchange is best for my business?”
2. Year-round engagement with exchange portals will be important for 2015 and beyond.
3. The phrase, “If you’ve seen one exchange, you’ve seen one exchange” was coined by Barbara Gniewek, Principal, GHRS, PwC, and she repeated it in her presentation on “Key Insights to Inform Your Healthcare Exchange Decision.” We at Liazon have incorporated it as well, thinking it’s a great way of describing the range of different types of exchanges that are out there.
4. Paper enrollments are dead.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of consumers to disrupt the status quo, case in point – not being able to find a cab when you need one is leading to a crippling of the taxi medallion business by Uber. (From Ashok Subramanian, Liazon CEO and Co-founder, when discussing the future of private exchanges.)
6. Wellness programs and consumerism will drive the next phase of private exchange growth.
7. Price is very important when choosing plans. According to McKinsey & Company, the greatest market share is going to the lowest-priced plans, and they expect this trend to continue.
8. Increased competition from more carriers and more plan options should drive prices down for the consumer.
9. The Cadillac Tax (a 40% excise tax on employer-sponsored benefits-rich insurance plans above a certain amount that goes into effect in 2018) is coming and will have an impact going forward.
10. Narrow networks are still evolving and narrowing strategies are changing, according to McKinsey.
11. The take up for ancillary products increases through private exchanges. When employees are given money to spend for these, they see the value and choose them.
12. Educating employees really pays off, according to Karen Fillback, HR Specialist, Miller-Valentine Group, whose company uses a Liazon-powered private benefits exchange. She saw a 79% satisfaction level from associates who understood their benefits better, as well as their company’s contribution.
14. 47% of employers say they are interested in private exchanges, up from 45% last year. (Gniewek)
15. Proposals submitted by exchanges need to be more transparent in terms of costs and how the exchange works; what is and isn’t included in fees. (Gniewek)
16. Exchanges should be evaluated based on the technology they offer, not just carriers and plans.
17. Private exchanges are evolving into the company’s intranet. (Joseph A. Bucci, Jr., CPA, CIC, Strategic Benefits Consultant, gbac, inc.)
18. “The ACA did less for health care reform, and more for health insurance reform.” (Bucci)
19. “The biggest reason for employers to adopt private exchanges is predictability” of benefits costs. (Christopher E. Condeluci, Principal, CC Law & Policy PLLC)
20. Defined contribution is not cost-shifting if it’s done transparently. (Condeluci)
21. Integration of health and financial wellness (retirement) will be a future trend for private exchanges.
22. Brokers and consultants need to make investments in technology, if not, they will fall behind the curve. (Mike Smith, Director, Exchange Solutions, Lockton Companies)
23. “70% of America has too much (health) insurance.” (C. David Minifie, EVP, Business Implementation, Centene) (That’s what private exchanges are working to address.)
24. Five ways to make health care consumerism work are: providing value, keeping it simple, making it transparent, have the right number of options (variety), tools and decision support.
25. A Siegel+Gale survey on health insurance found the industry ranking 25 out of 25 on simplicity – worse than mortgages, worse than cable companies. “Our communication aches to be simplified.” (Minifie) (Another thing private exchanges are working to address!)
26. Whoever figures out a new nomenclature for what we do will be the big winner. Language will be the big differentiator. (Tej Shah, SVP, Business Development and Strategy, BCBSLA)
27. Personalization will be the expectation in the health care space, just as it is for Amazon or Netflix. The consumer experience will evolve because expectations will grow.
28. Technology has changed and will continue to change everything.
29. The consumer is the boss.
Jami Kelmenson is a Senior Copywriter at Liazon, although presently there are no Junior Copywriters on the team. As content continues to play a bigger role in “benefits communications,” she is optimistic on the trends in store for private exchanges.