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2020 Healthcare & Employee Benefits: What's Next?

Jan, 06 2020

What should you expect from the healthcare and employee benefits industries in 2020?

I’ve read multiple articles summarizing the decade we just closed. Can you believe we’re almost to the 10-year anniversary of ACA? After combining all the reading with the 20 conferences I attended last year, and hundreds of broker conversations – this gives me a pretty good idea about what to expect in the coming year.

But first, I see two clear and ongoing macro trends… 
1. the extremely low unemployment rate since 2018
2. the extremely high cost of healthcare (driving high premiums and out of pocket costs)

The intersection of these two trends makes employers around the country hungry for fresh solutions. I hope you’ll use these 5 predictions to drive new business.

1. Behavioral Health Booms

The need is huge and growing. According to the World Health Organization, $1 trillion of productivity per year is lost due to depression and anxiety. Click here for a discussion by Dr Eric Bricker on how this plays out in your groups and their medical costs.

In my 30-year career, I’ve never heard so much open conversation from the general population about the need for behavioral health. I think there are two reasons for this …

  • More demand than ever  85% of Millennials have had a behavioral health need. I’m not saying my Gen X friends didn’t have as many issues, we just didn’t willingly admit it. People are free to vocalize issues more than ever before - and demanding support.
  • Better access than ever  There are 3 main access barriers: long wait-times, stigma, and the inconvenience of in-person appointments. Using Telehealth to provide remote behavioral health visits cuts the wait-time from 30 days to 7 days or less. Plus, it instantaneously cuts the stigma and inconvenience by a similar margin. 

Remote behavioral health visits via phone and video are one of the fastest-growing categories in telehealth over the past 2-3 years – and they’re sure to hit new records in 2020. It’s definitely in an employer’s best interest to provide this kind of support and access. Click here for more about how behavioral telehealth works. Suggesting this to your employer clients is a slam dunk!

6 money-saving ways employees use Advocacy

2. Advocacy advances

Here’s an out-on-a-limb prediction: the system ain’t gettin’ simpler in 2020. In fact, more often than ever, people will feel confused and frustrated when they touch the healthcare system.

Here’s an analogy: although technology is complicated and beyond me, I LOVE the Apple Store experience. Why? The geniuses who work for Apple serve my needs with expertise and in a calm manner – circumventing the confusion to deliver a personalized solution to me. 
 
THIS is what a premium Advocacy service does. It helps members through every step of navigating the healthcare system: selecting the best-quality providers, planning a surgery, receiving price and quality transparency, transferring records, finding the best Rx solution, sorting through medical bills, or even negotiating an out of network claim. Click here for more about how this level of service simplifies healthcare. 

More brokers are admitting the need for this type of help in 2020 is far beyond what their in-house support team has bandwidth to solve. As a result, the growth of outsourced advocacy services is higher than ever. And with the right partner, the member experience can be like my afternoon at Apple.

3. Legislation languishes 

With 2020 being an election year, there will be lots of  talk in Washington DC about changing healthcare legislation, but very little will actually be implemented. Specifically, the Democrat-led House will continue to push plans for various versions of “Medicare For All.” However, with a Republican-led Senate, none of these bills will pass this year. 

Any implemented changes will come from Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services and their authority to make ongoing changes to the “flavor” of the system. What does this mean for consultants? Keep serving your employer clients with more consumerism strategies to help control healthcare costs - for them and their employees. 

4. Digital developments

Every trend-watcher and startup founder is telling a similar story of healthcare’s future: people will interact with everyone remotely. From physicians, AI assistants, and benefit coaches to hospitals, and genetic testers – the vision is to serve needs through new channels from cradle to grave. But, we’re not there yet and most are flunking at getting member engagement. There’s no use in having a great tool if people don’t know it’s there and/or don’t use it. 

Therefore, the wins in 2020 will be with those digital platforms or providers who get engagement. I predict that some of those winning platforms will become conduits for other innovative digital tools.

5. Personalization proliferates

The personalization trend is so prevalent outside of healthcare, I predict this will push into the benefits and healthcare space. It’s already a client expectation due to experiences in every other area of life. The Gen Z and Millennial groups haven’t grown up thinking, “I should just be happy with the benefits my employer picked for me.” Click here for an infographic with various stats that highlight the shift in perspective. 

I think this means we’ll see more choices among medical plans. And, of course, more choices for ancillary benefits. A walk around an exhibit hall at a big conference shows there are many more vendor solutions. However, I believe the key thing we (as an industry) need to solve for clients is a way to deliver options to employers or employees in a format that works for all involved – from paperwork, to billing, to member delivery. Being able to deliver personalization with simplicity will win in the decade of the 2020s.

As I look forward, one thing is sure: employee benefits and healthcare in the next decade will take us to places we’ve never been. We can either lead the way or be left behind. Let’s go roaring into the 2020s!

Now it’s your turn! What direction do you see for healthcare in 2020? Comment below or email me at reid@freshbenies.com.

Reid

Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
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