When Amy Christofis has an investment question she doesn’t hesitate to tap her friends in the financial world for guidance.
It’s good having a friend in the business.
For her millennial friends who have questions about which health insurance plan they should choose, that friend is Christofis.
“I’ve had friends call me and say ‘I’m going through open enrollment and I don’t know which of these three plans are going to be the best,’ ” Christofis says. “I have knowledge that the everyday person doesn’t necessarily have access to and doesn’t have the expertise that I do.”
Christofis shares that knowledge and expertise five days a week with her clients as an account executive for Connecture, a web-based consumer shopping, enrollment and retention platform for health insurance distribution.
An economics major “intrigued” by a health care world, Christofis took a job as a broker/consultant right out of college. Seven years of “really diving into it and exploring” led her to the intersection where employer, employee, health care provider and insurance company converge.
“I felt that the way that the industry was going the technology piece was where there was the most growth and the most need from the employer’s perspective,” says Christofis, 33. “I ended up coming over to the technology side.”
The road to the technology side led straight to Connecture. Located in a neighborhood away from the Loop, Chicago’s downtown commercial core, Christofis says the company’s office is pretty laid back and typical for a young, high-tech company.
“We have a really great, very cool loft space with an open floor plan and a great ping-pong table,” she says. “I like to think that we are a little bit cooler. We’re out of the norm.”
You would think that all that coolness would scare more traditional, conservative employers and insurance companies. Apparently that isn’t so. Connecture doesn’t have “an average” client, Christofis says. The company’s clients span the country and run the gamut from older, more established businesses to younger entrepreneurs.
“I would say that the thing that probably ties them together is sort of the feeling that they recognize that technology is solving a problem for them or is solving an issue for them,” she says. “I think they all kind of see technology as helping them do their jobs.”
Much of Christofis’ day is spent on the phone talking to clients and insurance carriers. Discussions during telephone sessions depend on how long the client has been with Connecture. For instance, a call with a new client focuses more on the nuts and bolts information necessary to onboard it to the company’s platform.
“They might still be making decisions on plans they’re offering to their employees, what products they are going to be offering folks, and what the contribution structure is going to look like,” she says.
Christofis’ job in those cases is to suggest ideas and programs that Connecture knows has worked for other clients. Telephone talks with established Connecture clients are completely different. If that client is approaching an open enrollment period, Christofis will ask questions like what the client’s goals for open enrollment are, what are its financial goals and what gaps in coverage are they trying to fill.
“Being in this role and having my previous life as a broker/consultant have given me a lot of knowledge,” she says. “There are a lot of things that I learned, things that worked well that are transferable client-to-client. We have a good understanding of the different paths clients can take and we are more than happy to relay those lessons learned.”
Her day is completed by standing calls with several carriers to load the website – or “stock the shelves” in Connecture speak — with their products. She will also handle employee issues that cross her desk.
“Maybe there was a claim that was denied or an issue with information that we transmit over to the insurance carrier,” she says.
As health care costs continue in an upward spiral, many employers are reducing choices to cut costs. But choice, Christofis says, is “important to employees.” And the kicker, Christofis says, is that choice doesn’t necessarily mean really expensive medical plans.
“We’ve done quite a few studies around that,” Christofis says. “The choice could mean voluntary products, things that are relatively inexpensive but provide a significant amount of value to employees that they really appreciate and are important to them.”
Christofis lists among those voluntary products things like vision and dental insurance, and identify theft protection.
“Policies like that employees are buying in higher numbers than most employers would anticipate,” she says. “In a lot of instances those are products that the employer is chipping in a little bit but in a lot of instances those are products being bought entirely on a voluntary basis.”
Offering those products may mean a small employer contribution but it could pay off in happier, more productive employees. And since Christofis believes that employer-based health insurance is going to be around for the foreseeable future, it just might make sense to consider adding voluntary products.
“I think there are a lot of untapped or underappreciated areas that have a lot of value,” she says.
Connecture’s office doesn’t have a fancy address in the Loop or along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. But that doesn’t matter to Christofis. She believes she’s at the right intersection for her career. Technology’s role in health care insurance, she says, is just getting started and is only going to get better, run smoother, and become more important to employers, employees, providers, and insurance companies. She wants to be right there when it does.
“So certainly I don’t see myself moving away from this intersection anytime soon,” she says.
She does, however, see is a change in focus from meeting the needs of employers to making life easier for employees.
“When we look five or 10 years down the road I think that the focus is going to shift to how can we better meet the needs and desires of employees,” she says. “How can we better give them products and an experience that is going to make their lives better and easier? It’s subtle but I think it’s an important shift.”
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