Recently, there has been news of insurance companies partnering with large retail chains to sell health insurance. Case in point: Aetna will soon begin offering individual insurance products in select Costco stores.
This is a sensible strategy for health plans. Not only do retailers know how to sell directly to consumers, but they also have a direct line of ongoing communication. Effectively leveraging these strengths through strategic partnerships with retailers will likely be one key to success in the newly-reformed health insurance market beginning in 2014.
We’ll have to wait until stores like Costco provide additional detail about how they will forge partnerships with health insurers before we can fully comment on how useful the approach will be for shoppers. What we do know for sure today is that there is another way health plans are taking a more consumer-friendly approach to health benefits: defined contribution private insurance exchanges.
Think of the private exchange as a virtual shelf of benefit products. Consumers can compare, shop and buy the insurance that best suits their needs and that fits their budget defined for them by their employers’ contribution. And with the help of a personalized decision support tool and expert telephonic support, the decision doesn’t feel so impossible.
What’s really unique and exciting about the private insurance exchange is that it offers people more choice than they’ve ever experienced before. And employees are responding favorably. On the Bloom exchange, we are seeing health plans offer as many as 20 different benefit plans from which consumers can choose.
In the new world of health insurance, remaining competitive won’t simply mean offering the best prices and the biggest networks. It will mean changing the entire ecosystem and delivering new ways to offer greater choice in customized benefits. By focusing their marketing energy into delivering on the needs of consumers, like by offering decision support through a private exchange or the chance to buy a health insurance plan where they do their weekly shopping, health insurers are affirming their intent on remaining competitive and innovative in an quickly evolving industry.
Choice is becoming the new definition of competition, and health insurers that are exploring private exchanges are ahead of the rest of the pack.Tweet