Tag Archives: cigna

Insurance Service Rates Zero Stars

When we say marketing 3.0, industry 4.0 and technology 5.0, we all get used to cool names ending with zero. I think no one is surprised that insurers fell a little bit behind.

We all talk about these cool zeros, but there is something really zero in insurance: customer service. I’m not talking about a claim service or a specific customer relations problem. I mean the view of insurers’ whole customer service.

Most insurance companies think that they should only serve for the customer who has a claim. Their favorite customers are the policy owners who haven’t had any claims for years. But the insurance industry’s approach doesn’t match with the fundamental dynamics of the service sector. As a service company, if you are getting a fee from customers, you should be happy while serving them and should want to make your customers happy, too.

See also: Next Generation of Insurance Services  

Insurance companies need to remember that they are in the service business. Serving only the unfortunate winners (claim owners) does not make you a services provider, but makes you a lottery company, at best. Lottery companies do not have problems because the majority of ticket owners know that the chance of winning a lottery is very low and don’t expect any special service from the lottery company. But people buy insurance against bad events that they think are likely to happen, and, if these events do not happen, they feel they do not get their money’s worth. Therefore, it is necessary for all insurance companies to provide service to all of their customers during the policy period, even if they have not made any claims.

Think about the gym that you paid hundreds of dollars for a year and you have not visited for nine months. Probably, you are angry with the gym. After a year without any claims, an average policy owner has similar thoughts about the insurer. How can you handle this problem?

Let’s go back to the gym you have not visited for months. What if it provides you another kind of service that you can use remotely, like healthy nutrition consultancy or a one-year free Netflix subscription? The Netflix subscription could completely eliminate the possibility of your gym use, of course. 🙂 But, joking aside, what would you think about the gym? Surely, you would find it more sympathetic and might think your money is not wasted.

Six years ago, when I was working at Cigna Turkey, we had created a concept called “living insurance” to make life insurance more desirable. We bundled lifestyle services with insurance products by means of different concepts like family, education and healthy life. Normally, no one wants to think about the possible return on their life insurance policy; it’s an unpleasant topic. However, with the service we provided to our customers — from carpet cleaning to skin care, car check-up to pedagogical consultancy — our product became something more than just the consolation of bad luck. In this way, products became more attractive, and customers did not think that their money was wasted. They could benefit from services any time during the policy, even if they had no claims.

Of course, it was easier said than done. Some conservative executives strictly stood against the strategy. Some raised questions like, “What is the relation between these services and our policies?” Now, when I look back, I can easily say we have been successful. These products sold hundreds of thousands in a few years, and some of them are still the best sellers. In addition to creating a new product category in the market, we opened a way for these lifestyle services, which are now an industry standard; today, almost all life insurance companies in the market provide these kinds of additional benefits.

See also: How to Use AI in Customer Service  

Insurance companies are obligated to serve their customers throughout the whole duration of the policy, whether it is home, car or life insurance. By giving names to our customers as “insured” or “insurant,” we forget that they are actually customers with needs and expectations. To catch up with industry 4.0 or technology 5.0, insurance companies should focus on holistic customer service development before the big infrastructure transformation development projects. In this way, an insurance service 1.0 that represents a customer service concept that meets customers’ expectations may be possible.

Empowering Health Through Blockchain

As the U.S. continues to wrestle with healthcare and how to provide insurance, the country seems to be in a state of flux; many individuals and employers alike question how they will ultimately be affected. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have identified healthcare as the biggest issue facing American businesses, and the National Federation of Independent Business ( NFIB) reports that the cost of health insurance is “the most severe” problem facing American small businesses today. The growth in healthcare costs has long been an issue in a monopolized industry controlled by the major health carriers (i.e. Blue Crosses, United, Cigna and Aetna).

The problem started spiraling out of control when insurance industry leaders, e.g. MetLife, converted from mutual company structures to stock company structures. When the best interests of the consumer become misaligned with the best interests of the service provider, we create a conflict of interest. After all, their fiduciary duty is to their shareholders, not their consumers.

The benefits system in the U.S. has been flawed for many years. It is plagued by a lack of transparency and leaves the employer powerless to fight increased premiums with each renewal, for what is most often their second largest expense next to payroll.

It’s time to collectively question the status quo and demand innovative solutions that leverage enhanced benefit plan design with emerging technology and contextual data. Business owners’ cost for healthcare should be directly correlated with the health risk and outcome of their employees. All aspects of plan design need to be transparent, and business owners and employees must own their healthcare data, so they can understand exactly what is driving costs and actually control their spending.

Viable solutions will come through companies like iXledger, a London-based blockchain insurtech start-up and collaborator with Gen Re that has partnered with online information hub Self Insurance Market to develop a marketplace for the growing self-insurance risk management sector. The marketplace leverages iXledger’s blockchain platform to navigate the complex, data-intensive processes of self-insurance, providing the visibility, workflow and resource management to receive cost-effective bids for appropriate services.

See also: What Blockchain Means (Part 2)  

The current group benefits market is primarily controlled and monopolized by the Blue Crosses, United, Cigna and Aetna (BUCAs), leading to diminishing provider networks, unclear benefits coverage and consistent premium increases over the last decade. American employees are unable to afford to participate in their own employer’s group medical plan. Aetna recently announced that it will not pay commissions to brokers on groups with fewer than 100 insured lives.

Technology alone is not the key to driving down the cost of healthcare and enhancing benefits. The famed health insurance unicorn Oscar has the technology, but only leveraging new tools with legacy processes is not going to yield significant returns. Disruption in healthcare requires a totally new approach, not just new technology to try to enhance the current, monopolized benefit plan offering.

Unfortunately, I believe Oscar will continue to lose to the BUCAs, unless it can quickly pivot. Oscar is currently losing roughly $1,750 per member, yet its last capital round provided for a $2.7 billion valuation with 120,000 insured lives, or $22,500 per member. Although Jeff Bezos and other technology leaders have defied all conventional means of valuation across the capital markets, an analysis into Oscar’s business has me a bit stifled. If you look at the member population, 48% of the New York enrollments in 2015 came from the ACA state exchange, who are often high-risk members. Perhaps that is why Oscar’s ratio of hospital costs to premiums earned was 75%, compared with 62% at UnitedHealthcare. The lack of capital relative to the BUCAs and Oscar’s existing member risk population will make it quite difficult to compete.

See also: Blockchain Technology and Insurance  

As Oscar shows, the solution to the health benefits crisis in the U.S. will not be driven with just new technology and enhanced analytics, but by integrating enhanced data and new technology, such as telemedicine, with innovative and enhanced benefit plan designs similar to what iXLedger is endeavoring to facilitate. The solution is a paradigm shift requiring new tools that compel new processes to put both employers and employees in control of their cost of healthcare while offering enhanced health benefits coverage.

Health Startups Go After 3 Pain Points

In my last post, I outlined the four dimensions that are defining the opportunities for health insurtech innovation: the health of the American people, marketplace trends, the role of regulation and the players.

Incumbent health insurers are pursuing legacy tactics to compete in the ACA world. There are big M&A approved (Centene/Healthnet) and facing regulatory challenges (both Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna). Many are increasing premiums. Others are leaving the public exchanges (notably, United Healthcare withdrew earlier this year, and Aetna just announced its withdrawal from 11 of the 15 exchanges).

Innovators addressing the root of user pain points can influence how plans are selected and healthcare is consumed. The levers are not easy to move. Success requires compliant ways of combining big data analytics and personalization with user-centric digital experiences.

The headline of a recently published New York Times article, Cost, Not Choice, Is Top Concern of Health Insurance Customers, would seem to state the obvious. Yet insurers have expressed surprise at the policy mix and which plans are proving to be most popular. Carriers participating in the public exchanges report poorer actual performance than anticipated in premiums (lower) and claims (higher). Users are gravitating toward lower-cost plan options and show a trend to self-select into higher-cost plans when they know a big health care expense looms.

This is not just an issue for incumbents. Oscar, among the most visible innovators in the US health insurance marketplace, reported a $105 million loss in 2015. Lack of scale is a challenge, but the company has also been affected by the user decision-making dynamics affecting established carriers.

See also: Matching Game for InsurTech, Insurers  

The results suggest (at least) three pain points:

1. People don’t see value because they don’t understand what they are buying.

  • When people think something is too expensive, it is because either they cannot afford it (i.e., it really is too expensive) or the perception of value does not justify the price.
  • Reportedly one in seven employees do not understand the benefits being offered by employers, of which health insurance is by far the biggest piece.

2. People are being held accountable for health decisions that they are not equipped to handle.

  • Faced with a complex set of choices and opaque information, it is no surprise that many go for the easy option: saving money now.

3. People don’t always make rational decisions.

  • A basic primer in behavioral economics will tell you that emotion, bias and other limitations — not rational analysis — drive decisions and that people discount perceived upside relative to downside. There is not enough upside to pay more in the short term.

Players who manage to affect these behavioral drivers stand to gain. Here are examples of companies working the issues.

Connecting disparate sources of data

PokitDok creates “APIs that power every health care transaction.” They aim to enable data connectivity across the silos that in today’s world require manual navigation. They define an ecosystem including Private Label Marketplaces, Insurance Connectivity, Payment Optimization and Identity Management. The company closed a $35 million B round last year. PokitDok is a pure technology play. Achieving their vision could be the “holy grail”: better economics and better patient experiences and outcomes without owning underwriting risk.

Helping employers

It hasn’t been lost on the startup world that 150 million employees purchase health care via employers, which is why many companies are focused on improving the benefits buying experience and promising to help employers lower costs. The ACA requires that all companies with more than 50 employees offer health insurance. This aspect of the regulation, coupled with the fact that health benefits expense has risen steadily, provides a specific and large innovation space.

Competitors include:

Lumity, who reported raising $14 million last fall, acting as an insurance broker. The company claims to be “the world’s first data-driven benefits platform for growing businesses” promising to simplify benefits selection for employers and employees. Employees are asked to provide health data, which are compared with aggregate profiles using proprietary algorithms. The big question: Will employees see enough benefit to share potentially sensitive information?

Zenefits, recovering from widely publicized regulatory issues, has new leadership. The company acts a broker, and focuses on small businesses.

Collective Health is targeting a wide range of businesses via “ready-to-go,” “configurable,” and “advanced” solutions. The employee experience components of the offering are aimed at helping users make better-informed decisions with less hassle.

SimplyInsured aggregates health insurance plan options for small businesses to make comparisons easier, and aims to automate processes presumably essential to creating a viable cost structure for serving this segment.

See also: InsurTech Need Not Be a Zero-Sum Game  

A number of benefits consultants including Aon and Towers Watson (the latter via their acquisition of Liazon in 2013) offer larger employers private exchange capabilities – these include portals for employee benefits enrollment enabled by data analytics and a friendly user interface. They act as or engage brokers to create benefits plans tailored to employers’ goals. Such portals can be helpful to employees, and check a box for employers seeking to improve the benefits experience, not just reduce expenses.

Health Advocate, founded in 2002, is the largest example of a relatively new industry positioned to help patients navigate an increasingly complex system towards the right care and reimbursement. The question being raised around these solutions – although as the de facto advocate within my own family I’d love to have a professional advocate to whom I could outsource – is whether they are a workaround adding yet another layer of expense to an industry that earns among the worst customer satisfaction scores of any. As an employer, however, it’s a benefits option that could be valuable given the stress of managing the health care process many employees undergo.

Motivating people to adopt healthier habits

Vitality, reported on in an earlier post, is a cobranded platform offering deals and rewards designed to motivate people who take steps towards better health. Hancock offers the HumanaVitality program, integrating Vitality’s rewards program into the insurance relationship. If people see near-term benefit to behavior change this could be a good use case upon which to build.

Facilitating patient payments to providers

Patientco is a “payments hub” supporting “every payment type,” “every payment method,” “every payment location.” Focus is on efficiently increasing revenue for providers, secondarily to improve the payments experience for patients. The company provides the ability to integrate its solution with other health technology solutions.

Providing better experience capabilities to carriers

Zipari is a customer experience and CRM platform providing a product suite including enrollment, billing, and a 360-view of members across engagement channels. The company targets is product line at insurers, both direct-to-consumer and group or employer channels.

See also: Be Afraid of These 4 Startups

The multiple miracles that would have to occur for a quick fix make it unlikely that we will see a simple, logical health insurance experience any time soon. We are relatively early in what is likely to be a long game. But, insurtech innovators and even more mature companies operating within and around the sector are demonstrating the capacity to go after the possibilities that data, technology and the ability to see creative solutions offer to mitigate the pain.

New, Troubling Healthcare Model

As physicians and hospitals compete for the “under 65” patient — whose payments are generally 150%-plus higher than for a Medicare patient — they have to determine their pricing model. The traditional choice is to offer a low price per service based on a higher volume, or a high price per service based on a lower volume. But some are charging a higher price with the goal of generating higher volume, and their number may increase.

Healthcare spending is already 17.5% of U.S. GDP and is expected to hit 20% by 2025. This high-price/high-volume approach could exacerbate the problem.

See also: Healthcare: Time for Independence  

Part of the reason for concern is a recent landmark decision, in which Cigna was ordered to pay an out-of-network provider more than $13 million to cover certain alleged underpaid claims and ERISA penalties. ERISA is the federal law governing large employers that self-insure their medical plans (generally those with more than 250 employees).

In the lawsuit, Cigna alleged that the supplier was failing to collect the patients’ deductibles and coinsurance. The carriers’ intent is for the supplier to collect the deductible and coinsurance to make patients aware of the supplier’s charges and of their shared responsibility for the bill. Cigna took the position that, if the healthcare supplier does not collect any payment from the patient, the provider is accepting as “payment in full” the amount processed by Cigna on behalf of the employer. Cigna argued that, if the patient’s portion under the Summary Plan Documents (the carrier’s contract with the employer and the employee) is waived, then the plan’s portion is waived, as well.

When suppliers “forgive the patient liability,” these healthcare providers often have a revenue model of very high prices with the goal of higher volumes. They’ll entice the patient to use their more expensive services because the patient does not have to pay anything — and the higher payment to the healthcare provider under the plan will more than cover the liability that the provider forgave for the patient, even though the average employee deductible is high, at $1,300.

Most patients have not grasped that healthcare suppliers are running a business and that prices vary by as much as 300% within a network. As a result, while employees (the patients) may save money when the provider waives their financial responsibility, they lose in the end. That’s because their employers’ costs increase, resulting in higher health insurance costs, with larger deductibles and payroll contributions for all employees.

The court’s decision to reject Cigna’s claims creates further risk to the affordability of healthcare for employers, as employees will be financially motivated to access care from suppliers with higher prices because the patient’s liability is forgiven. Can we expect other healthcare suppliers to implement a revenue model tied to high prices with no patient liability?

See also: AI: The Next Stage in Healthcare  

Conversations with a number of healthcare suppliers shows that many do not realize that most large employers self-insure their medical plans; the suppliers perceive that the insurance carriers covers the costs. The purchasers (the employers) have the opportunity to engage the healthcare suppliers (hospitals/physicians) in a discussion around supply chain management, quality and patient safety, so the providers fully comprehend that the one ultimately paying the bill is monitoring their performance.

We’ll look forward to sharing the results of this type of collaboration, now underway in a major market. It’s time for employer-driven healthcare.

Why Doctors Don’t Trust Insurers

Having health insurance and dependable healthcare is one of the biggest concerns for people all over the world, but, unfortunately, there are many doctors who simply don’t trust the health insurance their patients use. No matter if you currently have health insurance, knowing what your doctor feels about your coverage can give you a deeper insight into just how well (or poorly) insured you truly are.

One of the main reasons physicians don’t trust health insurance providers is because they feel insurance companies prevent them from offering patients the absolute best care. It’s understandable to be upset at the idea of not being able to perform your job to the best of your abilities.

Insurance providers that are considered the most trustworthy include Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna, while those deemed the least trustworthy are UnitedHealthcare and Humana. These results stem from a 2015 survey conducted by the ReviveHealth Payor Trust Index, with responses from more than 600 specialists and primary care physicians. One thing to note is that Blue Cross Blue Shield earned a combined trust index rating of about 60 out of 100, which was the highest score but which also leaves an abundance of room for improvement.

The Future of American Health Insurance

The two most important factors physicians cited as influencing their opinions about how health plans help or hurt the quality of care they deliver were the level of coverage and number of claim denials.

Physicians might also soon have to contend with new medical insurance companies made up of two or more of the most difficult companies to deal with, such as through the proposed merger of Anthem and Humana. If the deal goes through, physicians might find health insurance companies to be downright insufferable.

Additional Reasons

Besides having their hands tied, doctors provided the ReviveHealth Payor Trust with several more reasons they distrust health insurance companies. Physicians also don’t believe insurance providers do their best to honor commitments made to policyholders. Nor do they believe that companies advertise themselves accurately or honestly. Respondents to the survey also said insurance providers take advantage of doctors.

If even doctors don’t trust insurance companies, where does that leave their patients? Not only do doctors have a better idea than their patients about how the human body works, doctors also have a better idea about how the health insurance industry works. If you’re considering health insurance plans, or if you’re thinking about switching insurance providers, ask your doctor for recommendations.