Unlocking Transformation in Group and Voluntary Benefits

Transformation requires tenacity, but insurers are applying new technologies in innovative ways.

Paul and I recently hosted the Group and Voluntary Benefits Roundtable at Datos Insights’ Insurance CIO Council Conference in Boston. Carriers came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the complex group and voluntary benefits line of business. While we covered a range of topics, a resounding theme was that unlocking true transformation requires addressing deep-rooted process, data, and technology constraints.

A core pain point from the discussion was the continued struggle to get accurate, timely census and roster data from employers. This can negatively impact everything from getting paid appropriately to delivering the right point-of-service when life events occur. While new employer portals and payment integration capabilities have helped some carriers, the issue is far from being solved across the board.

Many participants noted that robotic process automation (RPA) has provided temporary relief, but it is more of a band-aid than a permanent solution. The overhead of constantly upgrading RPA tools with new system changes ultimately limits their value. Participants emphasized the need to look beyond just RPA to more holistic automation approaches powered by technologies like AI and natural language processing (NLP).

In fact, many insurers are exploring innovative AI solutions that could help streamline core processes like underwriting, billing, and benefit administration. For example, AI models that can comprehend nuanced group policy language and identify discrepancies could significantly reduce manual efforts. However, implementing such capabilities at scale requires overcoming data hurdles and navigating the inherent complexity of group and voluntary benefits across employee, employer, and carrier touchpoints.

Driving meaningful customer engagement also remains an uphill battle. Employees often only engage at point-of-claim, so carriers are looking for ways to provide preventative services and guidance that keeps customers connected. Early efforts like AI-driven health incident outreach have shown promise, but more innovation is still needed.

From the product side, new financial wellness offerings are gaining traction by bundling with existing employer products. However, pricing sensitivity looms – employees may want the benefits but are less eager to pay for them. This dynamic continually challenges carriers to evolve their voluntary benefits portfolios in cost-effective ways.

Overall, the roundtable highlighted that group and voluntary benefits transformation is a journey requiring tenacity. By strategically combining new technologies with process optimization and data enhancement, leaders can progressively modernize their operations. Those making calculated investments today will be better positioned for sustained success in this rapidly evolving market.

Read more about LAB market changes in our The Way Forward for LAB Carriers: Greenfield and Brownfield Operation report.