As I’ve written in past blogs, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) like it or not, has driven a variety of positive changes in the healthcare marketplace.
From an employee benefits standpoint, the ACA has enabled brokers, consultants, insurance carriers, and employers to be more innovative and strategic. The role of insurance broker has evolved from marketing the employer’s coverage to all carriers every year to see who will offer the cheapest plan to a more progressive multi-year strategic plan aimed at stabilizing long-term health care costs. These days, our strategic planning with clients centers on the following:
- Benefit plan designs such as consumer-driven health plans (“CDHP”) and value-based health plans (“VBHP) that drive consumer engagement and accountability.
- Prescription drug benefit plan designs and cost containment features that control prescription drug spend, particularly specialty prescription drug spend.
- Funding alternatives such as dividend-eligible fully-insured, minimum premium fully-insured, level-funded self-insured, traditional self-insured, and captives.
- Health improvement programs that keep employees and their family members healthy.
- Education and communication initiatives that inform employees and their families on how their benefit programs work and the value of their benefits.
- Technology solutions that minimize and/or eliminate administrative headaches and bring together the entire employee benefits program.
The last item – technology – has been a hot button recently, largely driven by the employer reporting required by the ACA. Many companies are pitching technology as a panacea to all of the employee benefit issues faced by employers today. Don’t get me wrong, the new technologies out there, including our Simplify suite of technology solutions, are fantastic. However, they are part of the overall strategy - and not the strategy. They cannot and will not solve by themselves the five things that all employers want:
- Lower costs
- Better benefits
- Healthier people
- No administrative headaches
- Navigation through compliance/ACA
The fact that technology solutions have become part of our toolkit and strategic vernacular is great for our employers. But they should not throw caution to the wind when a third-party pitches technology as the silver bullet when it comes to controlling health care costs. Remember the book and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when the Hal 9000 computer system meant to support the mission’s objective runs afoul to the detriment of the crew and the mission?
The point is that technology in and of itself cannot drive an employer’s long-term strategy. Only a trusted advisor can truly look holistically at an employer’s employee benefit program and collaboratively work with the employer on establishing a long-term strategy that stabilizes health care costs and meets the remaining five things technology can’t solve.