Sending bills and customer-facing communication as well as processing payments are a critical function of a health insurance company’s business. This behind-the-scenes operation is one that traditionally requires significant resources and has a widespread impact across an organization. Bill delivery is crucial for two primary reasons. First, these items, whether delivered via paper mail or online through a portal, are an insurance company’s most consistent, direct line of communication to its customers. Second, the manner in which bills are sent and received impacts an organization’s cash flow.
As new payment channels emerge, such as mobile payment tools, how can insurance companies make these options available to consumers without creating an additional burden for themselves? A technology investment is never an easy decision for any organization; however, modern solutions for billing and payments are bringing insurance companies vast and immediate advantages. From improving customer outreach to accelerating payment processing, technology is the key to improving not just a single function, but many aspects of a health insurance company’s business.
Consumers want options
Treasury management for insurance companies – and really any company with a billing function – has become extremely intricate. In many ways, this can be attributed to advancements in technology that have brought about a wide array of payment channels. Consumers are aware of these payment options; they are accustomed to purchasing almost anything using a Smartphone or tablet and want the same convenience when interacting with insurance companies and paying bills. They expect to have access to an online portal and now, even a mobile app to review statements and make payments.
However, the clear demand for online and mobile options does not necessarily mean consumers want communication to be entirely paperless. Ironically, while they expect the convenience of modern, self-service channels, the vast majority also wants to receive a paper statement – regardless of how tech savvy they are. A survey conducted by InfoTrends found that consumers value receiving bills by mail because the physical document acts as a payment reminder and can go into their personal archive. Now, to align with customers’ desires, insurance companies are exploring ways to efficiently deliver bills as well as collect and process payments through multiple channels.
Consolidating payment channels
If we look at the evolution of billing and payment channels over the past 15 years, we see large waves of technology adoption. Some early-adopter companies jumped on board and began offering different payment alternatives initially when they became available. Perhaps they partnered with a company that made it possible for them to accept credit card payments and another to provide an online portal. This approach likely gives consumers what they want – but comes at a cost: added work and complexities for the insurance companies on the back end to manage these various channels.
While choosing specific vendors for specific tasks was the right decision at the time, implementing each channel separately resulted in siloed solutions. Additionally, this method typically creates discrepancies and leads to more exceptions, preventing companies from gaining a holistic and real-time view into their cash flow. With several channels operating separately, it can be almost impossible to see exactly where money is at any given time.
Insurance companies need a better way to achieve balance between delivering online and mobile options and ensuring efficiency and cost effectiveness for the organization. As opposed to separate products, to achieve this requires a solution that handles both the bill delivery and receipt sides of the process as well as consolidates all payment channels, regardless of whether they arrive via paper check or through an app – into one, single stream. It is not just the bill distribution and collection, but also the payment processing step that must be enhanced. Managing just one technology for the entire process solves for the cost burden and can result in an accurate view of a company’s cash flow.
Why update tech now?
Regulatory changes have significantly affected payer and provider programs, making it even more urgent for insurance companies to update their billing processes. If a health care company has three backend systems, for example, it makes resolving exceptions extremely difficult. This usually requires an insurance company to conduct multiple searches to remedy the issue and ensure the payment is applied to the correct system.
Also, in the world of health care insurance, companies are seeing more competition, new or updated plans being offered every year as well as higher customer churn. The resulting changes to internal billing and payment processing systems have made them more complex than ever to manage. Insurance companies enlisting different providers for each channel are finding that this fragmented approach leads to a considerable number of discrepancies, since updates cannot be made instantly across all systems.