Since even before PPACA became law five years ago, brokers have been sweating bullets. And I’ll admit, I’ve been alternatively worried and excited for them over the years. I’ve honestly gone back and forth a number of times — especially over the last 12 months.
But not until recently have I been worried about the other players in the health care — and insurance — business. This week, while walking the all-too-energetic dog around the neighborhood in the rain, I had an epiphany: This whole business is changing, not just the role of brokers. Hell, in as little as a decade, we might not even recognize this industry.
(It was also then that I recalled a stat from a conference last month — where one of the speakers suggested that by 2025, 90 percent of all businesses will leave the health insurance space. Which sounds more frightening than it is considering how many newcomers are already making waves. Hello, Zenefits.)
I think the historically aloof attitude of health insurance carriers will soon be a thing of the past. For the first time ever, they have to do more than pay lip service to the customer. To paraphrase one of the big brains over at Forbes, we’re witnessing nothing less than a (near) overnight transformation of an entire industry, evolving into a real retail business. Between the exchanges, a flood of start-ups and people paying their own bills (after finally seeing what they really are), competition has come to town.
Then there are the providers, who’ve been forced to shift their business models away from a focus on volume and actually have to concentrate on patient outcomes — and experiences. Everyone from the big hospital networks down to the family doctor might have a flood of new patients (read: customers) shopping for care, but the days of patients taking what they can get are over.
Today’s health care consumers are more educated than ever — and I know that sounds terrifying considering how far we still have to go, but it's true. And in that same vein, they’re not afraid to take their business elsewhere. For the first time, consumers feel empowered enough to make their own health care decisions. And this is just the beginning. Imagine what another decade of education could do.
The health care business in this country is responsible for about $3 trillion of the economy. (China is expected to hit $1 trillion soon.)
How could big-time players like Apple, Google and Amazon not start showing an interest? (God help us if our real-life Tony Stark — Elon Musk — were to show an interest in health insurance.) In an industry so riddled with inefficiencies, inadequacies and infuriating outcomes, imagine what it would be like to shop for health care — or even voluntary products — on something as effective a user experience as Amazon? Want ID theft protection? Click the InfoArmor button. Pet insurance? Drop a box of VPI in your shopping cart.
And while we’ve been talking about wellness being the next big thing as if it were a promising, but ultimately disappointing No. 1 draft pick, it looks like its time might finally be here, after all.
Between Fitbit and (gasp) the Apple Watch, wearables are cool. Not only that, but consider this other bit from that same conference: Out of all the millions of downloaded apps, two-thirds of the ones that actually get used daily are fitness apps. And don’t underestimate the social aspect of wellness: According to Fitbit research, employees with friends take 27 percent more steps than those without in the same program.
Finally, for the record, this seismic shift is as much a result of technology as it has been regulation. Fighting against it makes as much sense as fighting city hall, Floyd Mayweather or the New England Patriots. You’ll either lose, miss or get cheated out of your future.
So, where will you be in five years?