Netflix, the fastest-growing entertainment company in America, owns no movies. Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no cars. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodations provider, owns no homes or hotels.
But each is the most innovative and disruptive company in its industry because they own their marketplaces, they own the interfaces, and they’ve made payment seamless. It’s time for similar innovation in the employee benefits industry.
The state of play today
The experience of buying benefits is the equivalent in entertainment of paying individual actors, directors, producers and editors each time we watch a movie. Health insurance might be from one carrier, life and dental insurance from another. Health savings accounts are a critical component to a high-deductible plan, yet they’re accessed separately. Buying benefits is complex, tedious and confusing, but it’s even harder to use the benefits throughout the year.
We should be able to enroll and access all our benefits through one interface and pay for everything through one monthly subscription in the same way we outsource our entertainment to Netflix. According to many predictions, this kind of disruption will not come from within the industry. Insurance companies today have some of the lowest net promoter scores of any industry. Strategic partnerships with trustworthy, consumer-centric brands may prove to be not only a powerful distribution channel, but also a sticky solution to attract and retain customers for life.
What the future looks like
No company in insurance or employee benefits can do what Netflix has done for entertainment, but modern benefits platforms have huge potential, and exchanges are a piece of that puzzle. Like Netflix, exchanges are essentially online marketplaces within benefits platforms for human resource teams and their employees, providing tools to empower individuals and families to make the right decisions and to actively engage in their health, wealth and wellness. But so far, exchange adoption rates have not lived up to industry expectations.
Here’s how benefits technology solutions should take cues from disruptors in other industries to bridge that gap:
• Drive relevance: Most people spend more time shopping for a TV than for benefits, so our biggest hurdle is to make complicated products relevant. People don’t want to engage with this industry, so they won’t watch an educational video. We need to focus on changing the language we use and providing context to make benefits relevant and engaging.
• Package for impact: Netflix offers more choices without overwhelming users because of how it curates content, recommending shows and movies on the basis of individual preferences. People want to make their own benefits decisions, but the process is complicated and confusing. As an industry, we need to streamline and simplify the user experiences we create. Leveraging intuitive technology to curate holistic benefits packages is a critical first step.
• Create intuitive interfaces: Apple sets the standard in design and user experiences today. We expect real-time feedback, iterative updates and responsive mobile experiences so that we can access what we need wherever and whenever. Paper-based, fax machine-powered transactions are still the status quo in insurance, and that’s unacceptable.
• Implement seamless payments: Part of the appeal of Uber and Netflix is not having to use a credit card at every interaction. It simplifies using their services. Paying for benefits is another story entirely. Payroll deductions, copays, deductibles and co-insurance all make payment complicated. We need simple products within one interface, handled in one payment.
• Leverage data to drive behavior change: To “move the needle” in health care spending, the end users we serve — actual American families — need to change their behaviors to not only become more educated health care consumers, but also to live healthier lives. The data exist today to make that happen, but the information is siloed. Exchanges can incorporate products that address the multiple facets of health and wellness; therefore, they have an immense opportunity to streamline that data and use the information to create not only savvier health care consumers, but also healthier American families.
It’s time to use technology to simplify the purchase of employee benefits and help consumers subscribe to their own health.
Veer Gidwaney is the CEO and co-founder of Maxwell Health. Maxwell Health has created the first health-as-a-service platform. Its revolutionary operating system for employee benefits engages employees, incentivizes a holistic view of health, and provides a centralized place to access health and benefits services. Maxwell’s web portal and mobile app enhance the benefits experience by leveraging data from these services, resulting in better, more informed health solutions.