Between a seeming inability to design a benefits plan that fits on one sheet of paper, a refusal to actually explain those benefits in terms normal humans can grasp, network arrangements that only a provider relations expert can understand, and a “explanations of benefits” that are dense and stuffed with jargon, health plans are way out of touch with consumers.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If there’s one service that should be simple, easy to understand, and approachable for everyone it is health care. What do I pay, where can I go, who do I have to call.
Health plans could learn a lot from the computer industry. We old folks remember when only pocket-protector-people used computers; remember those big rooms with rows of metal boxes fronted by blinking lights and whirring tape drives? Those blue boxes were connected to green screens in the sea of cubicles outside the “computer room”, screens with horrible resolution requiring users to know what each of the dozen(s) of Function keys did and why.
The geniuses at Microsoft made computing much more user-friendly with Windows – and the PC industry exploded.
Then Apple got serious, designing their hardware and software around the non-nerdy user. Macs were simple enough for schoolkids to use, and eventually even their parents got comfortable with Macs and PCs.
Now it’s smartphones, Siri, and google maps. We don’t have to know anything about programming, or APIs, or backslash v frontslash. The technology does it for us. And “it” is pretty much everything. We know the weather in Philly, score of the hoops game, whereabouts of our kids, monthly sales figures, meeting schedule for next week, and anything and everything else – instantly and in a format we grasp intuitively.
Which leads us back to health care. Insurers and health plans need to take a lesson from Apple and Google; people want good health care that’s easy to access and fits their unique needs. They do NOT want to wade thru fine print stuffed with SAT-test words and jargon that’s murky at best. Blaming the consumer for misunderstanding a benefit plan is just nuts; write the plan so it’s understandable for everyone.
Give them the tools they need to use your health plan, tools that adapt to the consumer and their situation. Tools that are intuitive, accurate, and user-friendly.
It’s long past time to scrap the “green screen” approach to health benefits.
What does this mean for you?
Some health plan(s) will figure this out. And they will do very, very well.