Top 5 health insurance trends to watch

There’s no question the health insurance industry is evolving. New technology is empowering employees’ health decisions. There’s big data. Online enrollment. More choice. And, of course, there’s still the Affordable Care Act.

For brokers and advisers, it’s vital to keep an eye on hot button issues and emerging trends — doing so provides increased value for both you and your clients. An adviser’s ability to share insights and offer guidance drives client retention as well as referrals that can lead to new business. With that said, here are five insurance issues advisers should watch.

1. The future of the Affordable Care Act. 2018 culminated with the end of the Affordable Care Act 2019 renewal period and ushered in a new era of uncertainty on the future of the law. While the healthcare law moves closer to a return visit to the Supreme Court on the basis of constitutionality, benefits professionals should keep an eye on any proposed changes — and the impact they could have on small group clients’ access to care, insurance coverage and no-charge preventive services.

2. Increasing use of predictive modeling. One of the primary drivers for innovation we see everywhere is based on the ability to access data, specifically, consumer behavioral data. The introduction of big data has led to an era where technology monitors what we’re buying, when we’re buying, what we looked at before we made our purchase, how much we paid, if we’re a repeat customer and so on. This kind of information allows companies to predict how their customers will engage with their products — essentially, a business crystal ball.

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A blood pressure monitor stands in the diagnostic imaging area at the Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Centre in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Equipped with biopsy facilities, body scanners, and quiet 'VIP' chemotherapy rooms, the Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Centre is the first of a string of such facilities that TE Asia Healthcare Partners, a portfolio company funded by TPG Capital, is planning in Asia. Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Predictive modeling has already begun to affect the employee benefits vertical as well. Giving benefits professionals the ability to offer solutions specific to an employee’s age, income, current and future medical needs, medical service usage and other relevant information based on the behavior of like-minded consumers is powerful. Beyond that, new consumer tools that help people make choices based on lifestyle, prescription drug use, how frequently they visit the doctor and other factors are making for a more customized approach to healthcare.

3. Combining health data. An increasing number of consumers manage and track their health, from fitness and calorie tracking to overall health management. The majority of information is monitored using apps accessible on smartphones or wearable technology. Similarly, data is being captured specific to employee benefits and utilization, from plan benefits selection and financial contributions to overall usage. Benefits advisers should acquaint themselves with health system portals featuring patient information and appointment scheduling that could be integrated in future consumer apps.

4. Increased automation. When federally facilitated and ACA state-based marketplaces opened, there was a lot of noise about the seemingly un-personalized, automated approach to customer service. However, automated systems with built-in agent alerts for follow-up with clients are the future of our industry. Those who adopt automated client management tools in 2019 will improve the quality of their contacts and drive positive business growth. Online enrollment is one example. It’s advantageous to business owners, employees and agents. In addition, it saves time, streamlines set-up, reduces errors and allows for easy plan comparisons.

5. Business growth through acquisition. According to AARP, about 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day. It’s safe to say the health insurance industry will continue to be affected by the increasing agent retirement rate in 2019, as they close or look to sell their businesses. That trend presents new business opportunities for agents who are on the upswing of their careers.

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