Professionals in the insurance industry can't complain of boredom this year. Societal and technological changes are transforming how insurers interact with customers and the types of services they offer. And consumers are finding they need to become more involved and better decision makers, especially when it comes to health care.
Anxiety and uncertainty over changes to the Affordable Care Act have everyone waiting and wondering.
While no one can predict how the ACA may change, Wells does see more movement toward higher deductibles in NH and is encouraging patients to become more involved in the management of their healthcare. For starters, he suggests looking closely at options that offset costs.
Insurers across the state are offering consumers tools to compare costs for common but expensive services like knee surgery or colonoscopies. At
Insurers are using technology to promote better health and control costs, including telemedicine-online health care visits-or, like
Many health insurers in the state are also using more value-based care arrangements, where medical providers are paid based on showing they have improved the health of the patient and not on the volume of care they deliver, as in the traditional fee for service model.
The ACA put more emphasis on dental insurance by mandating the insurance be offered for children.
The company has teamed with Tufts Health Freedom plan to entice employers to offer both insurances by giving a discount on medical and dental premiums. In NH, about 60 percent of employers offer dental insurance, which is higher than rates nationwide that are about 50 percent, Raffio says.
To better serve its clients, Northeast Delta Dental acquired a software company in 2016. At patient cleanings, information asked of patients is entered into the program, calculating the patient's risk for periodontal disease and other dental risks. Depending on their risk assessment, patients may receive more than two cleanings annually as part of their plan. Patients will also receive health recommendations, such as smoking cessation or nutrition counseling. Raffio hopes dentists will use the software with clients who are covered under other policies as well.
Not all insurance technology is eagerly embraced. To help customers become better and safer drivers, some auto insurance companies offer user-specific auto insurance, which monitors drivers through a telematics tracking device installed in the vehicle. Auto insurance prices are then based on the way customers drive. Though
Whether rate increases will lead to drivers being more open to that technology remains to be seen. And increases in auto insurance are coming, Berube says. As more drivers are on the road, likely because of lower gas prices and higher employment rates, more auto claims are being filed. According to the
"We are to expect some rate increases," Berube says. "We haven't said that about auto insurance in a long time." Only time will tell if the hands-free law in NH will lessen the number of auto accident claims, but, Berube adds, it cannot hurt as distracted driving is a big problem.
Property & Commercial
On the other hand, Berube sees good news for property and commercial insurance rates. Homeowners and renters insurance will level out after about five years of increases. Severe weather played a part in recent increases, with bad winters leading to more claims from ice storm damage, ice dams and frozen pipes.
However, due to the mild winters this year and last year, prices should level out. "We won't see increases like the past five years in 2017," Berube predicts.
While the market is strong for renters insurance, demand for homeowners insurance is weaker as millennials are choosing to rent and putting off home purchases. In fact, the national homeownership rate hit 62.9 percent in 2016, the lowest since 1965, according to the
There also appears to be some rate relief for commercial insurance as well. After commercial insurance rates saw hikes as high as 10 percent between 2009 and 2014, Berube says the market is flattening, and there may even be rate reduction of 3 percent to 5 percent this year.
Workers' compensation insurance is where Berube is seeing the most significant reductions in pricing.
The rise of the gig or sharing economy is providing opportunity for insurers as many people participating in that new economy don't realize those activities are not covered under their personal insurance policies, and they need extra or alternative insurance, whether it is pet sitting through rover.com, driving for Uber or renting their lakefront home on sites like VRBO.com, says
"The sharing economy is moving very fast. We are trying to cover some of those grey areas so the consumer is covered," Ralston says. "It's a very exciting market to be in these days."