President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress may be about to unleash a tidal wave of insurer product design creativity, which will take at least a few months to reach you.
Republicans hope to use a combination of legislation, rulemaking, and creative approaches toward implementing existing rules to change the way the federal government handles health-related insurance products and benefits plans.
Even if Republicans succeed at replacing the Affordable Care Act and making immediate changes, insurers may still need to spend time redesigning and rolling out new products.
Analysts at the Transamerica Center for Health Studies recently revealed many of the health product sales opportunities that exist right now, in a summary of results from a recent web survey of 4,636 U.S. adults ages 18 to 64.
The Los Angeles-based research organization is funded partly by Transamerica, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based unit of Aegon N.V. of the Hague, Netherlands.
If the Transamerica Center analysts do have any biases, the biases might be in favor of supplemental health insurance products.
Transamerica units don’t sell major medical coverage. They do sell gap-filler products such as long-term care insurance, dental insurance and Medicare supplement insurance. In the past, before the Affordable Care Act came along, the company sold limited-benefit health plans, or low-benefits-limit health coverage products aimed at employers with tight benefits budgets.
For agents and brokers trying to sell health insurance products today, the best opportunities may involve approaching people who need gap-filler products but don’t yet realize it.
Keep reading for a look at some of the health coverage gaps that analysts found:
Even if Republicans find ways to change health policy in the middle of the year, they may offer some kind of transitional relief to people using the Affordable Care Act public exchange premium subsidies. (Photo: iStock)
1. Major medical insurance
The grim truth is that you may not be able to make any money selling individual major medical insurance this year.
Even dramatic mid-year changes are unlikely to have much negative effect on consumers buying individual health coverage outside the ACA exchange system. The ACA subsidy program could change, but the insurance policies themselves are governed by state law and, in most cases, should be valid until the end of 2017.
Transamerica Center analysts found that 16 percent of the consumers who were still uninsured in September, or about 2 percent of all of the consumers surveyed, said they were uninsured partly because they had no idea how to apply for health coverage.
In other words: About 2 percent of consumers desperately need someone like you to throw them a health insurance lifeline.
Related: Sally Pipes: Mind the ACA gaps
Survey results indicate there may be a genuine need for better consumer education about health coverage and benefits. (Photo: iStock)
About 5 percent of the survey participants who were offered access to an employer-sponsored wellness program are not in the wellness program because they have no idea how to enroll.
That raises this wild possibility: If you have been spending much of your time educating moderately broke consumers about the nuts and bolts of how to buy, pay for and use an individual major medical policy, either through an Affordable Care Act exchange system or outside the ACA exchange system, maybe there’s room for you to offer an employee benefits literacy class and charge, say, $25 for consumers to enroll.
Instead of banging your head against a bureaucratic brick wall to try to get consumers health coverage, give your clients a basic level of literacy, for the sake of a puny commission check. Or, why not charge ordinary, individual people $25 for a slice of pizza and a two-hour benefits literacy class?
Columbus, Georgia-based Aflac Inc. has put the Duck to work quacking about accident insurance for years. (Photo: Eric Reed/AP Photo)
3. Accident insurance
Transamerica and other companies have devoted large marketing budgets to telling employers and workers about this product.
But, when the Transamerica Health Studies Center researchers tried to measure employee access to a list of commonly offered employee benefits products, it found that 31 percent of the participants said they had no idea whether their employer even offered accident insurance.
One way to fill that void might be with a benefits literacy course.
Another might be to take the drug store or farmers’ market table you were using to try to sell Affordable Care Act exchange plan coverage and convert it into a vehicle for introducing consumers to the concept of accident insurance.
Consumers may not realize they can combine this product with the kind of high-deductible health coverage that’s compatible with a health savings account. (Photo: iStock)
4. Critical illness insurance
Many modern critical illness insurance policies can cover the insureds against a long list of the conditions that scare people the most: heart attacks, cancer, stroke and kidney failure.