Opportunity is the Name of the Game in Today’s Health Insurance Market

As the 2022 open enrollment period comes to a close, health insurance industry leaders are facing a year of unprecedented change. For some, these changes are being embraced and viewed as an opportunity for growth. For others, the rapidly changing market dynamics will have them falling further and further behind. The difference? It’s all in the technology. IT systems that combine best-of-breed solutions with modern technological advancements that facilitate easy integration, fast implementations, and effortless upgrades will separate those who thrive and those who barely survive in the new year.

Growth in the Midst of Chaos

According to AHIP, the health insurance industry is experiencing significant growth as we look to the new year:

  • 12.2 million Americans will buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges this year, the highest number of individuals since the program began.
  • 213 health insurance providers will participate in the federal exchange this year, an increase of 15% from the previous year.
  • 27 million Americans are now enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, which represents the highest percentage of Medicare beneficiaries to date.
  • 180 million Americans now receive their health coverage through employer-based health plans.
  • 40 states have now chosen to partner with Medicaid MCOs and more than 75% of Medicaid enrollees are served by Medicaid managed care (MMC) programs.

In addition to evolving consumer behaviors, legislation regarding interoperability and transparency is gaining momentum. In 2022, payers will be required to focus on the implementation of foundational transparency requirements, such as the Machine Readable In Network and Allowed Amount Files, and the No Surprises Act consumer protections. Payers will also be required to collaborate on the method and standards for the Advanced Explanation of Benefits and Pricing Comparison Tools. The technology advancements required to ensure compliance may be leveraged, since the increased access to information and the implementation of standards provides new insights into member health, risk scoring, and health equity gaps.

Increased Choice = Increased Competition = Increased Opportunity

As the numbers above show, consumers now have more choices than ever before. As a result, health insurance providers now have more competition than ever before. For example, AHIP tells us that the average number of options individuals had to choose from in this year’s federal exchange was six to seven options, up from four to five just last year.

For those organizations that have embraced modern technologies, this competition is a welcome opportunity to gain market share and grow their lines of business. For those still burdened by legacy core claims, admin systems, and manual-dependent care management platforms, this competition creates new risks of being left behind in a market that appears to have no intention of slowing down.

Over the past several years, the complexities that health insurance business leaders must address have grown exponentially. From regulatory requirements embedded in the 21st Century Cures Act to consumer demand for greater transparency and more control, leaders now recognize the critical role their technology stacks play in the ability to keep pace with change.

At the same time, technology companies that have mastered automation in other industries such as financial services and manufacturing have set their sights on modernizing the healthcare industry. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple have moved into healthcare, bringing with them powerful new data sources that legacy health systems cannot absorb and new approaches to solving age-old problems.

Modern systems, like those from HealthEdge’s next-generation solution suite, can help health plans embrace change and leverage the opportunity to become more nimble, more efficient, and more consumer-centric as they explore new markets and pursue new payment models with greater confidence.

Eric Decker, Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, Independent Health, noted, “About ten years ago, the Affordable Care Act created uncertainty as to whether our legacy [core claims administration] system could manage things like member-level benefits, or how it would perform and integrate with exchanges. We closely evaluated different products in the space at the time and immediately realized HealthRules® Payer enabled us to significantly cut down our new product development time. Now, what used to take weeks and months actually takes hours or days.”

Speed to Market Matters

With the right systems in place, health plans can not only better identify opportunities for growth and better member outcomes, but they are also able to act on those opportunities with greater speed and more precision.

For example, health insurance companies who leverage the integrated HealthEdge solutions, which include best-of-breed core claims processing, care management, payment integrity, and digital health management systems, are uniquely equipped to bring innovative plan designs and benefit configurations to market faster. HealthEdge customers can easily expand into new geographies and reach new populations with next-generation products that are highly configurable.

This new level of nimbleness that modern technology platforms bring to the table in 2022, will be the difference between those who grow and those who fall further behind.

How It Works

Organizations that use HealthEdge products can take advantage of flexible configurations, customizable workflows, and automated processes.

For example, the English-like language capabilities used in HealthRules Payer make it easier for health plans to design and bring new benefit products to market faster. That’s because it has been designed in a way that a benefits person thinks, not the way a core admin system works.

With HealthEdge Source®, health plans receive automatic updates on important data, such as fee schedule changes, rates, payment policies, and provider-level data, every two weeks instead of having to wait months to receive now-outdated information. GuidingCare®, HealthEdge’s care management platform, streamlines clinical workflows so care managers easily create care plans and ensure that members follow the plans for better outcomes.

“[With HealthRules Payer], we’re able to complete the solution design process as a series of benefit objects, so we don’t have to rebuild over and over again at the risk of increased costs and errors.”

– John Janney, Senior Vice President of Transformation at AmeriHealth Administrators

Lifting the IT Load

The features and configuration capabilities of the software system are only part of the speed equation. The ability to easily integrate best-of-breed solutions with other systems in a seamless manner eliminates the IT burden that often serves as a barrier to change among health plans with legacy claims processing and care management systems. The business can only move as fast as the systems can manage the changes.

Similarly, implementations of monolithic systems needed to support new lines of business or new markets can dramatically slow down the health plan’s ability to pursue new opportunities. Upgrades with new features create similar IT challenges and have the potential to disrupt business operations.

“[GuidingCare] was an incredible partner, great collaborator, and provided great teamwork. I have great appreciation for that. We have no regrets about choosing GuidingCare.”

– Clinical Director, 1M+ member health plan that was able to replace its legacy system with GuidingCare in three stages across its entire business in only nine months

With modern technology and proven processes, health plans have the opportunity to expand into new markets and drive new business opportunities without worrying about how to fit projects onto an already overloaded IT list.

“Adaptability in terms of the benefit configuration and allowing us to roll out new products without having to do massive coding projects is a big deal that we don’t have today (with HealthEdge).”

– Eric Decker, SVP of IT and CIO at Independent Health

Get Ready to Grow

Advancements in modern technology, like those from HealthEdge, are helping health insurance companies keep pace with the ever-growing demands from regulators and consumers. But the pace of change in 2022 will require health plans to accelerate their digital transformation journeys if they want to capitalize on growth opportunities.

Our product investment strategy at HealthEdge is focused on helping our customers migrate to more modern, interoperable, and composable systems that allow them to grow in the ways they want and when they want to.

To learn more about our best-of-breed solutions and how they work together with our broader ecosystem of solutions and partners, visit www.healthedge.com or contact us at  [email protected].

“HealthEdge allows us to achieve speed to market with our products in the rapidly changing healthcare environment, with the capability to configure and implement products quickly and on the fly.”

– Dave Mika, VP, Enterprise Core Systems Operations, at Independent Health and user of HealthRules Payer

The Foundation: End-to-end Business Automation

Health plans have historically struggled with high operational costs, often driven by a combination of complex business processes and manual-intensive workflows that require human intervention and decision-making. In an effort to reduce costs, most health plans have tried to implement software systems that automate repeatable processes. However, the automation remain confined to functional silos, and spreadsheet gymnastics remain the dominant way to share data between systems and lines of business. The many promises of business automation continue to fall short of expectations.

As the industry becomes increasingly complex and consumers play a larger role in the selection of their health insurance, payers are recognizing that their complex processes and manual-intensive workflows are no longer sustainable. Mountains of work that sit in a queue waiting for a human to move it to the next step is slow, expensive, and prone to error.

The time has come for payers to lean more heavily on their software system vendors and technology advancements to automate business processes from one end of their business to the other. This fundamental principle of end-to-end automation is a key component of HealthEdge’s product investment strategy today.

Everyone is Doing It

We need not look far to see how other industries are using technology to create end-to-end automation. Consider Amazon, whose transaction costs are in the micro-cents and whose customer experience is revolutionizing consumers’ purchasing expectations. Netflix upended the entertainment industry with its use of modern technology to deliver content directly to the homes of its 214 million active subscribers.

At HealthEdge, we consider disrupters like these to be role models. Why? Because they think differently about how to solve problems. They focus first on the consumer experience and work through the options from there. With healthcare, the problems are extremely complex, driven by ever-evolving, ever-growing regulations and consumer demands. Therefore, we have to think about things differently, too. We can’t keep applying the old fixes to the rapidly evolving problems of today. And that’s exactly what we’re focused on helping our customers do.

This is the type of first-principles thinking that drives us at HealthEdge. Instead of just thinking about the status of a claim in our core administration system, we think about how that data can be used to empower nurses in care management, how to expedite eligibility checks, or how to help members select the right benefit package prior to enrollment. Instead of trying to improve second-pass claims editing, let’s get it right the first time. Instead of looking down into the functional silos, we look across the whole business of healthcare and seek to automate every business process possible to reduce operational costs and improve accuracy.

Enabling End-to-End Automation

With all of a health plan’s primary business systems, including core claims administration, care management, payment integrity, and member engagement, under one roof at HealthEdge, we are able to think more holistically about solving problems and driving innovation faster across the entire spectrum.

While powerful as individual solutions, the integration of these best-of-breed solutions gives us the unique advantage to improve accuracy, timeliness, and accessibility of data across multiple touchpoints, which is necessary to drive smarter, more automated workflows. As more workflows are automated, we can layer in leading edge technology advancements like artificial intelligence (AI) decision-making and machine learning to accelerate the time-to-value our customers experience when working with all our solutions. We take a unified view of the business processes that achieve desired outcomes, a key enabler of digital experiences for members and providers.

Business processes such as prior authorizations, claims adjudication, eligibility checks, enrollment, and even member correspondence are driven automatically through rule-based workflows that require little to no manual intervention. Plus, our open API interfaces make it easy to embrace third party systems that depend on accurate and timely delivery as well.

Realizing the Benefits of End-to-End Automation

When payers move toward end-to-end automation, they are able to free more resources to focus on innovation while also dramatically reducing transaction costs associated with claims processing, care management, and member engagement.

In its December 2020 report entitled “Strategic Automation Decision Framework,” Gartner estimates the cost to rework a claim is equal to $25 per claim. By automating more of the claims payment processes, health plans have the opportunity to get it right the first time and significantly reduce claims processing costs.

“It won’t be long before end-to-end automation becomes an expectation, rather than an outlier, and digital is simply business.”

– Gartner Group, Strategic Automation Decision Framework report, Dec. 2020

End-to-end automation is also fundamental to improving the member experience. Empowering care managers with information about member-specific benefits directly from within the care manager’s interface will help them not only build more informed care plans, but also better guide members along their care journeys. Equally as important is the ability to empower members with engagement capabilities. Solutions such as HealthEdge’s Wellframe® digital member engagement platform give members the opportunity to engage more directly with their care managers, which typically results in better care plan adherence and member satisfaction.

Creating a frictionless provider experience will also be a by-product of end-to-end automation, as the accuracy and timeliness of the claims adjudication process improves. For example, one HealthEdge customer was able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by completing accurate pricing and editing in a single pass with HealthEdge’s Source payment integrity solution. The ability to eliminate manual pricing processes results in a time savings of 25% and a 40% reduction in claims volume that require rekeying.

At HealthEdge, we remain committed to helping our customers automate more of their business processes so they can drive down transaction costs and drive-up member and provider satisfaction. To learn more about how we are enabling end-to-end automation for our customers, visit www.healthedge.com or email [email protected].

New Year Brings Milestone Regulatory Changes To Payers, Providers, Members

Change is right around the corner for payers, providers and health plan members that affect cost-sharing and provider network directories.

One of the most contentious issues in healthcare – surprise billing – reaches a new milestone Jan. 1, 2022 as interim final rules and a clear process for many out-of-network billing goes into effect. Claims generated from out-of-network emergency services, out-of-network services at in-network facilities and air ambulance services must hold members harmless and be adjudicated at the median in-network contracted rate for a geographic area (Qualifying Payment Amount or QPA) within 30 days of receipt. QPA does not apply to those states that have the All-Payer Model or state-mandated fee schedules.  Health plans will need a grasp of various state rules to reach correct formulas for calculating payments, as self-funded plans under ERISA are no longer exempt from state rules which vary greatly. In any case, the more stringent of either state or federal rules in holding consumers harmless applies.

Ground Ambulance Charges a Notable Gap

With the QPA as a starting point, there are remedies through negotiation and independent dispute resolution that will determine what rate will ultimately be paid for a service. The stakes appear high, as that rate established in open negotiation and IDR will become the QPA for the provider and services reviewed for at least 90 days.

HealthRules Payer® may be configured to automatically promote applicable claims to in-network, and enhancements to compare QPA with Non Par and Billed amounts are in development.  Current regulations address known gaps, with an exception for ground ambulance balance billing. Slightly more than half of such rides create out-of-network bills; in some states as many as two-thirds of rides do so. The patchwork of ground ambulance service providers and local laws makes this regulation more complex. A regulatory advisory committee is studying the issue.

Provider Directories Get a Makeover

Another aspect of the No Surprises Act coming into play in 2022 is the provider directory requirement, which governs how up to date online and paper provider directories must be. As part of the “hold harmless” philosophy in which health plan members could inadvertently receive out-of-network services due to inaccurate directory listings, and building upon current provider directory initiatives, plans have new requirements to meet. Online databases must be updated at least every 90 days in a manner that can be audited for compliance and accuracy. The burden is on providers to verify their information if they want to be represented as in-network, but payers also have a responsibility to remove unverified information until certified by the provider.

Plans will have two business days to make online changes; printed directories require a date notation to indicate a publication date. Phone requests to change provider information must be handled within a business day with an auditable process to verify the work is complete. Services rendered based on incorrect information must be processed as in-network.

‘Hold Harmless’ the Watchword

The theme for both sets of regulation is to hold members harmless for costs incurred when they have no option; however, some of the nuances are still to be ironed out and there are court challenges underway as to how the regulations and rules are being interpreted.

Healthcare Tech Execs Talk About Reimagining Care for Chronic Illnesses

In a recent interview, Stephen Krupa spoke with Lucienne Ide, MD, PhD, founder and CEO of Rimidi. Ide’s focus is on patients with chronic diseases. Episodic care is not working for them, she shared, and a once-a-year or once-a-quarter trip to the doctor feels more like being called to the principal’s office than a health-focused partnership.

“We try to keep that focus on empathy for the patient and for the end user and to be sort of obsessive about our customers and our customer experience,” she said. Her previous experience in venture capital convinced her that investors didn’t understand the actual experience of the doctor, the nurse, the patient, for whomever they were building the tech.

At Rimidi, Ide and her team are building sustainable progress by pushing healthcare past just digitizing data into genuine decision-support tools, innovating in care delivery and doing the “dirty work” of truly setting patients up for success. Rimidi provides a suite of solutions to healthcare delivery systems for big health systems and  independent practices, layering decision support on top of the electronic health record. EHRs, Ide notes, are the record of authority and aren’t going away. “But we’ve got to put the tools on top of them that make them usable and efficient,” she says.

Ide has strong opinions about tackling the pain points of shifting to value-based models and what the tech industry needs to build for doctors who only have three minutes to make a decision: “IT systems need to do what humans don’t do very well, which is to aggregate and analyze and curate and present the necessary data in a very efficient manner.”

In this podcast, Ide and Krupa talk about how entrepreneurs should approach their ventures. “I always encourage people at the beginning of the journey, that if you’re not bringing a personal experience to it, or even if you are, continue to listen,” Ide says. “Listen more than you talk.”

Listen to the full conversation here:

About Steve’s Guest

Lucienne Marie Ide founded Rimidi, a cloud-based software platform that enables personalized management of health conditions across populations. She brings diverse experiences in medicine, science, venture capital and technology to bear in leading Rimidi’s strategy and vision. Motivated by the belief that we can do so much better as individuals, in industry and society, Lucie left clinical medicine to join the ranks of healthcare entrepreneurs who are trying to revolutionize the industry.

Composable Architecture: The Perspective of HealthEdge’s Chief Technology Officers

Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of stepping barefoot on a LEGO®? If you have, your first thought was probably something like AHHH! Not, ‘Wow! What a superb example of a composable architecture building block – with perfectly standardized bricks and studs jabbing me in the foot!’

Wait, why are we talking about LEGO in our technology blog? Well, we recently sat down with the CTOs of our products – Matt Kuntz, Dan Vnuk, & Amlan Dasgupta – to talk about composable architecture. Interestingly, our chat took a turn toward LEGO and Michelangelo’s David.

Why is composable architecture important?

Imagine building the Millennium Falcon out of LEGO versus found materials. The LEGO set comes with perfectly standardized bricks that seamlessly fit together. It’s a breeze to snap the pieces together and in a couple hours your finished product looks exactly like the picture on the box. The ‘found materials’ option is going to take a lot longer and have a less definitive outcome.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the CIO at a health plan – they are responsible for creating an effective tech stack ecosystem. Picture this ecosystem as the Millennium Falcon that needs to be built brick by brick. This ecosystem needs to support their growing business needs while also being easy to maintain. They need to bring solutions built by different companies together and create a seamless, end-to-end workflow. Each element needs to be sewn together, requiring solutions that are interoperable, easily updated, and agile. Composable architecture makes this possible.

Payer solutions leveraging composable architecture have a whole host of benefits that enable superior business outcomes including:

  • Increased speed to value
  • Implementation ease
  • Clearly defined interfaces
  • Flexibility to improve functionality
  • Adaptability to changing business needs
  • Loosely coupled systems for seamless upgrades
  • Clear channels of ownership and accountability

What are the challenges of composable architecture?

Composable architecture is great – but there are some significant outcomes if you don’t get it right:

  • Lack of transparency – When different systems are cobbled together, there’s a risk of losing transparency. A solution with a successful composable architecture should enable data sharing that increases transparency. Data transparency is important as it enables users to work with data no matter what application or component created it.
  • Integrated but not optimized – Picture two systems that work together but weren’t specifically designed to work together. Meaning that yes, the system functions BUT it’s missing out on a world of opportunity to elevate the whole experience with things like data sharing, transparency, and more.

Composable architecture & HealthEdge

At HealthEdge, we are working to build the composable building blocks that enable the end-to-end ecosystem for Payors. Each standalone product, HealthRules Payer®, GuidingCare, and Source, can easily integrate into the various components of a payer’s ecosystem, including each other to create a next-generation integrated solution suite. For example, HealthRules Payer is a core claims admin system with hundreds of applications integrating through APIs – hundreds of applications that are constantly evolving and improving. Our products must be able to grow and evolve with these businesses and applications – we must be able to deliver the best technology, implement it efficiently, keep it running, and continuously update to new functionality. Without composable architecture we’d have a tangled mess of custom code.

When you build composable payer products, you can configure functionality and connections that allow flexibility and confidence in the products. Otherwise, chaos breaks loose during upgrades and things don’t work. You end up configuring whole parts of the workflows with custom workarounds that are difficult to maintain.

As you think about composable architecture and what it means to you and your ecosystem, consider the following:

  • Integration capabilities
  • Ease of implementation
  • Ability to deploy
  • Scalability
  • Speed of upgrades
  • Adaptability to changing needs

LEGO – The composable architecture archetype

Humble, but mighty, these versatile blocks are standardized, have clearly defined integration points, and are infinitely stackable. A veritable ideal example of composable architecture.

You can go to the store and buy thousands of standard Lego blocks. If you are really good, in a few days you can put together something that looks roughly like the Millennium Falcon. It will be blocky, and the color will be off, but everyone will recognize the Millennium Falcon. If you go buy a Millennium Falcon set, all the pieces will be the right color, and there will be lots of custom pieces for things like gun turrets and there will be detailed instructions for how to put it together. It will only take you a few hours, and when you are done, it will really look like the Millennium Falcon. The pieces are still Legos, and you can still attach any other Lego pieces to build something custom, but if what you want is the Millennium Falcon, you will get a better Millennium Falcon than you could get from standard Legos.

The thing with LEGO is that even a stunning compilation of their bricks pales in comparison to Michelangelo’s exquisitely formed David. LEGO, while a wonderful example of composable architecture, is inherently limited by its form. No matter how you put the pieces together, the result will always be a compilation of LEGO.

The Future – Transforming LEGO into masterpieces

The vision our CTOs share of our future technology is to create something so much more than interchangeable blocks. They are on a mission to create individual best-in-class products that integrate and deliver an unmatched experience – while also providing interfaces and building blocks that can easily integrate with non-HealthEdge products. Picture systems linking together and not only seamlessly integrating but having a deep understanding of how the other one works and building on it – creating a sum that is far greater than the parts.

‘Our vision is to develop our suite of products in a way that they do things that no other set of products could. Not by blocking off the APIs. We’ll be open. We’ll be opening our APIs and allowing anybody to integrate, but by designing the products to work well together, we’ll have a set of products that work together better than anybody else’s products.’ – Matt Kuntz, CTO, HealthRules Payor, HealthEdge

We’re excited for that future.

Shifting Regulatory Environment Calls for Vigilance

The machinery of the regulatory world grinds forward and compliance deadlines come and go. The ambitious interoperability and transparency regulations that are reshaping key elements of the industry are under continual interpretation and review by HealthEdge staff. We are holding focus groups and facilitating an ongoing dialogue with our customers to stay on top of their concerns and shed light on developments as they occur.

Everyone has more questions than answers right now. The regulatory environment is in a bit of a holding pattern because so many things have been paused, but that doesn’t mean our work to prepare is wasted. We need to stay vigilant but not get ahead of ourselves.

As an example, one focus group participant recently asked us how regulators in a fluid environment will assess whether health plans are complying with Transparency in Coverage Machine Readable Files if records are not included. Regulators want to see a “good faith” effort by health plans. If a record is missed because a reasonable algorithm missed it, the plan has not failed compliance, because they made a good faith effort. But they would be expected to correct this as soon as practical.

We are continuing our technical work as scheduled and encourage plans to stay committed during this time. The additional time will ensure that the “unknowns around the requirements” not yet presented through rulemaking are thoughtfully created, while we stay focused on the enhancements that will assure compliance with the requirements and beyond. The one thing no plan should do is sit back and wait for the pieces to fall into place. If there’s anything that 2020 and 2021 have taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected!

HealthEdge, GuidingCare® and Source® customers who wish to dialogue with HealthEdge as we develop compliant solutions should reach out to their Account Executives. Focus groups are held Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. ET, usually covering a single topic. The No Surprises act is slated for discussion Dec. 2, with Machine Readable Files to be covered Dec. 16. January 2022 topics are in the works.