Health Plans Wake Up to Smell the Coffee: Embracing the Digital Customer Way of Life


Health Plans Wake Up to Smell the CoffeeConsumers and their digital interactions with brands across industries have been the norm for over a decade—and health insurance should be no exception to the times. To keep up with customers’ digital expectations, the entire health insurance value chain is finally taking on characteristics of the retail industry, from enrollment to final payment.

Not only are consumers interacting with their health plans through digital platforms more often, but insurers are also sprucing up their direct-to-consumer distribution channels and patient portals, offering a broader array of health insurance products and developing new benefits products to support various markets, such as individual exchanges.

These changes are predicated, of course, upon technology, especially on data and analytics. Thanks to analytics tools, the three pillars of healthcare – consumers, providers, and insurers – are poised for stronger relationships.

That said, health plans must be mindful of the broader landscape, beyond digital interactions with members, and consider the impact that the pandemic and the Great Resignation are having on their employee retention goals and growth plans.

Aite-Novarica Group has distilled the developments in healthcare payments into 10 top trends that will influence the industry in 2022. Some of these include:

  • Innovation can spare insurers from the Great Resignation. The global pandemic accelerated a change that technology already started; for white-collar workers in particular, a central office is not needed. This moment in time is quickly separating the legacy players who refuse to recognize the evolving workplace realities from innovators that are adapting and future-proofing their employee models. Failing to adapt to remote work options will leave employers without enough talent to operate effectively. Those that are complaining about finding the right talent and being short staffed are likely to fall into this category.

    While the Great Resignation has not hit healthcare insurers as severely as other industries, the impact will be felt in their business partners and distributors, ultimately affecting their business as well.

  • The No Surprises Act forces overdue collaboration. Along with providers, health plans are at a moment of reckoning, requiring radical acceptance of balance billing practices. The law is designed to protect the patient, or the customer, sparing them the surprise bills that arise from out-of-network providers they didn’t know they had engaged with. The Act has the potential to alter the healthcare financial and contractual landscape with providers, but it may also spawn a breakthrough, however uncomfortable at first, in network styles and care delivery models.
  • The value proposition of individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs) will get stronger. As employers look to cut the cost of health insurance coverage, ICHRAs are seeking to be an attractive option. ICHRAs allow employers to offer health coverage to contractors, seasonal workers, and gig workers, who have not traditionally been offered employee benefits. But there are still administrative wrinkles to iron out.
  • Healthcare will test the waters of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity across the globe and in varying industries, and healthcare will not be exempt from its effects forever. While the industry is barely testing the waters and exploring use cases for cryptocurrency as a mode of premium collections and claim payments, the road ahead will see growing pains. Ultimately as payment processing systems learn to work with these digital currencies, healthcare payers and providers will also face the music, educate themselves on the risks inherent with digital currencies, and dive into the crypto pool.

To learn about the remaining six trends Aite-Novarica Group has our eyes on in healthcare payments this year, read the full report Top 10 Trends in Healthcare Payments, 2022: Reign of the Digital Customer.

In addition, please join us on February 3, 2022, for a discussion of what 2022 has in store for the healthcare payments marketplace by registering here.