While Congress may be hotly engaged in whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, health care industry executives are split on whether the debate is affecting their business -- as market forces may be having a greater impact, according to a new survey by WEX Health, a health care financial technology platform provider headquartered in Fargo, N.D.
Hundreds of executives from health plans, banks and administrators attended WEX Health’s Partner Conference in Hollywood, Fla. and were asked about the current situation in Washington, D.C. regarding health care reform, and 35 percent said it was positively affecting their business, while 18 percent said it was negatively affecting their business. However, nearly half -- 47 percent -- said it was not having any impact.
“It’s important to note that the tailwind of market forces are impacting their business more so than what’s going on in D.C., as we continue to see moves toward consumerism and consumer-directed health care,” Ryan VanOverbeke, WEX Health’s vice president, health care partner executive, said in an interview Tuesday.
Indeed, 56 percent of the attendees said they were more optimistic about the prospects for the consumer-directed health care market over the next two to three years than they were a year ago, while 8 percent were less optimistic. More than a third -- 36 percent -- said they felt the same as last year.
When asked specifically what employers are looking for in terms of consumer-directed accounts, 25 percent of the attendees said that employers wanted more plan design innovation and flexibility (e.g., HRAs); 35 percent said more integration across other benefits (e.g., claims integration); 19 percent said more HR administrative simplicity and self-service; 18 percent said more employee experience improvements (e.g., mobile); 1 percent said employee education and employer administration support; and 2 percent said all of the above.
“We’re seeing a greater demand for flexibility and innovation from consumers, employers and partners,” VanOverbeke said. “We feel very strongly -- despite the regulatory uncertainty -- that we and our partners are able to bring greater employer empowerment and new technologies, to allow companies to better understand how employees are accessing the healthcare system.”
Nearly two-thirds of the attendees -- 61 percent -- said the use of mobile is positively changing the way consumers engage with their employers regarding health benefits, as well as how they manage their healthcare spending, and how they shop for health care services and providers.
When asked about their plans for selling health savings accounts, 45 percent of the attendees said they were are selling HSAs and knew this is a high-growth product; 9 percent said they were focused exclusively on flexible savings accounts, HRA (notional) accounts and/or COBRA; 3 percent said they were exclusively HSA-focused; 29 percent said they were already very strong in the HSA market and are offering a multi-account (i.e., including FSA, HRA); and 14 percent said none of these options applied to them.
For those attendees that sell to small businesses, the survey asked whether they intended to sell the new small business HRA product. The answers were fairly evenly split: 28 percent said yes, they planned to start selling the new HRA product during open enrollment this year; 26 percent said yes, but that they were currently selling the new HRA product; 33 percent said no, they did not plan to start selling the new HRA product until further guidance/regulation is put into place; and 13 percent said no, they did not intend to sell the new HRA product as we do not see value in it.