KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Health insurance and benefits brokers can't do much to cut the cost of health insurance. But they can help their group clients save money by finding ways to cut the cost of their employees' care.
Brokers who do this will step out of the role of "broker" and into the role of advisor or consultant, attendees at the National Association of Health Underwriters annual convention were told.
Saving clients money by addressing the cost of care was an overriding theme of the convention's professional development sessions. NAHU members learned about some innovative ideas to bring to their clients as employers struggle with providing health coverage and their workers wrestle with increasing out-of-pocket costs.
"The No. 1 thing clients need from health insurance brokers is to control costs," said David Contorno, NAHU member and president of Lake Norman Benefits. Contorno and Dr. Josh Luke, health care futurist and former hospital CEO, discussed how the lack of transparency in health care pricing is leading to consumer confusion and skyrocketing costs.
"Why can't you shop for elective surgery the same way you shop for a car?" Luke asked, describing how a hip replacement surgery can vary in price by thousands of dollars among hospitals only a few miles from each other.
Contorno echoed those thoughts.
"A business executive can find out how much he paid for the pens in his office, so why can't he find out how much he paid for his employee's back surgery?" he asked.
Luke and Contorno presented some ideas for controlling employer health care costs by designing plans to steer workers into lower-cost, higher-quality facilities for care.
Meanwhile, employee wellness programs have been touted as a way to reduce health care costs, but they haven't lived up to the hype, said Al Lewis, CEO and co-founder of Quizzify. In fact, the opposite may be true.
"Wellness programs lose money, employees hate them and they can sue their employers over them," he said. In addition, he said, health risk assessments that are taken as part of wellness programs, are of no use and frequently spread misinformation.
Lewis recommended that brokers work with employers to create programs that will improve what he called their "health care literacy" and give them the information they need to improve their health without having to undergo unnecessary diagnostic tests.
Some large employers are providing onsite clinics to provide primary care to their workers, but not all employers can do so. Why not bring the doctor to them? Christopher Yarn, CEO of Walk On Clinic, presented a way to change the primary care delivery model by bringing primary care physicians to the workplace.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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