By Alissa Gavrilescu on Dec 30, 2016 2:00:00 PM
The way consumers are buying and using health care has shifted drastically in the past few years. From exchanges to wearable health technology, staying ahead of the curve is more important than ever as an insurance broker.
2016 is on its way out and we’re looking ahead to a new year and new goals. As you plan your strategy for the new year, keep an eye on these five trends in health care and insurance.
(More) Changes in the Affordable Care Act
If there’s one constant with the ACA, it’s been change. And 2017 will be no different. With a new administration coming into office, there will be changes coming that will affect health care reform. Some of the most prominent changes proposed have been adding health savings accounts to the mix as well as opening state lines for insurers to sell coverage, which could impact Medicaid funding.
The Technology Tidal Wave
Technology continues to shape health care and insurance. The number of consumers purchasing insurance has skyrocketed and that number is expected to more than double by 2021, according to a PwC Health Research Institute Report. Consumers are becoming more engaged with their health care through wearable devices like the Fitbit, mobile apps that track health and fitness, and emerging technology that will reinforce positive health habits with better insurance rates. Devices that integrate health data into the delivery care process are past beta test and starting to hit the market.
Leaving online reviews, using social recommendations to influence purchasing, and consumers becoming brand advocates: the principles of social media that are commonplace in the retail and entertainment industries are making their way into insurance and health care. Transparency is growing in the health care space with tools enabling consumers to review everything from their doctors to their plans to their customer service experiences. Customer service for carriers is more than a call center. Social media is a growing outlet for consumer questions and support.
Health Care Consumerism
All roads lead to the consumer. The trends we listed above show a seismic shift in consumerism, and with that shift comes the consumer expectation for a retail-like shopping experience. Insurance shoppers are accustomed to the “Amazon experience” and their needs are driving a lot of change in our industry. This consumerization is leading to more education and self-service shopping tools, comparison features, and customer experience innovation. Private exchanges have been pioneers in offering these tools and creating a truly consumer-centric benefits shopping experience.
Voluntary benefit sales have increased 3.32 percent in 2016 and is forecast to continue an upward trajectory. Vehicles like public and private exchanges have allowed growth in this space – both on the consumer side having access to new benefits and on the broker side as agents expanded their product portfolios. Dental insurance continues to lead the ancillary pack, remaining the top requested benefit after medical.
Look for these trends in the new year but more importantly, plan for them. There’s tremendous opportunity for you as a broker to expand your business and connect with your clients in new ways this coming year.