With the heat of the campaign trail, most Americans learned to take the words and slogans of political candidates with a grain of salt. A year later, the nation (and insurance providers in particular) is navigating through a bog of rhetoric while trying to prepare for what changes may lie ahead. With a new administration in office, what’s at stake for healthcare—and how can you adapt? Here are three key strategies to focus on to make sure your healthcare plans are viable, no matter who’s in office.
Learn from the past.
The last time the United States had major healthcare reform was only 7 years ago (2010). And even so, it took several years to implement the Affordable Care Act. In fact, “Obamacare” wasn’t fully implemented until 2015. As the ACA was being rolled out, with much resistance from insurers, there was a much needed shift of incentives from patient volume to patient outcomes. Forbes reports, “That shifting of incentives, from patient volumes to patient outcomes, is [already] having profound effects on our health system.”
And despite the arduous adoption of the new regulations, Obamacare benefited the insurance industry by providing millions of new customers who couldn’t afford insurance before with government subsidies to buy insurance. Understanding the shifts and adoption of the ACA can give us a bit of insight into how to further maneuver the changing administration. Looking at the various ways the insurance market reacted to the past dramatic shift in healthcare is the single most meaningful insight insurers can adapt to new changes.
When Obamacare was signed into law, insurance companies were now forced to accept some 20 million people with preexisting conditions. This caused the costs of premiums to skyrocket for all as the market reacted to this massive influx of incurred cost for insurers. “Generally, across all plans, premiums were up as well as deductibles and cost-sharing were up in the double digit range,” said Joel White, President of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage.
Insurers can learn from the instability the ACA caused, and prepare with innovation. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim initiative, for example, seeks to improve the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improve the health of populations; and reduce the per capita cost of health care. The initiative hopes to force technological innovation and efficiencies that will ultimately improve the quality of care, while dramatically cutting cost. These proactive initiatives are a surefire way to adapt to dramatic changes in administration.
Become more agile.
There is no doubt that the slow rollout of new regulations played a significant part in much of the instability that Obamacare caused, but Benjamin Isgur, head of the PwC’s Health Research Institute, said it took 2-3 years for insurers to even get up-to-speed with Obamacare. “The people who are running the large health systems, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies are pilots of these massive ships,” says Isgur. “They do not turn on a dime. Many insurance companies took two to three years to get their exchange offerings up and running—to run the numbers, to think about how they were going to market and implement them.”
Increasing agility and decreasing the amount of time it takes to go to market with the new policies helps solidify the future of those policies. If it takes 2-3 years to adopt new policies, and there is the potential for a new administration every four year, insurers are likely facing risk of finding themselves spending more time preparing for new healthcare regulations, than adopting and translating those to their quality of care.
Marilyn Tavenner, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a leading industry trade group, warns that a similar time-table may be ahead of us in order for insurers to get ahead of President Trump’s rapidly changing policies. Tavenner said the industry would support a delay for “as long as possible.” However, American insurers best-positioned to adapt and even thrive in a world of change are those who are most agile in terms of their systems and operations. By investing in technology that is easily adaptable to new regulations, they can deal and adapt to new regulations of healthcare compliance as quickly as possible. Flexibility will be paramount to simultaneously engage with new partners and regulations. This is particularly the case if plans are made available across state lines.
Go fully digital.
As more changes to policy and practice occur, communicating with existing customers will prove to be increasingly difficult, especially considering a large number of insurance customers are already dissatisfied. Insurers need to be ready to communicate now. A full digital suite consisting of online customer support, real-time pricing tools and reliable instant communication will help insurers adapt, regardless of the U.S. government’s eventual decision.
Today’s customers are so used to on-demand information and expect a simple, personalized encounter, like the experiences they get with Facebook, Google or Amazon. Consumers want an insurer who knows their history and anticipates their future needs, while experiencing easy communication across a variety of interaction channels and devices. Personalization is the crux of the continuum of care, which many experts conclude will be one of the tenants of Obamacare that will make it through the Trump-Care butchershop. In addition to the value-based payment model, insurers must evolve to include personalization tools for attracting new customers and satisfying existing customers.
As changes to healthcare increase in the coming months, insurance providers must look to the past to adapt to the changing administration. Learning from the slow adoption of Obamacare, becoming agile in the face of change, and embracing a fully digital customer experience will allow providers to thrive, no matter how great or not-so-great healthcare becomes.