December 10, 2021
Four Benefits-Focused Insurtech Predictions for 2022
By John Carson, Ideon’s Chief Revenue Officer
2021 has been a banner year for employee-benefits insurtechs—and not just because investors have committed more than $6 billion to U.S. insurtech startups this year. The rate at which benefits-focused insurtechs have introduced innovative solutions to solve long-standing challenges has been inspiring.
But for all the progress, the industry’s digital transformation is far from complete. Some employees still enroll in benefits via paper forms. Others lack the tools to fully understand their options. Still others continue to struggle to maximize their benefits year-round. Not to mention that, behind the scenes, a significant portion of brokers, HR teams, and other stakeholders deal with inefficiencies and limited automation as they undertake day-to-day, benefits-related tasks.
Collectively, though, the industry is heading in the right direction. We can say that because Ideon—a data platform that powers carrier connectivity and digital experiences for benefits-focused insurtechs, HRtechs, and benefits-administration software—has a front-row seat to all that runs this industry. And we see several digital trends gaining momentum. Here are our top benefits-focused insurtech predictions for 2022.
1. Decision-support tools will transition from “nice-to-have” to “essential feature.” Decision-support tools are gaining traction in two primary ways: first, by helping employees select and enroll in the health insurance and benefits plans that best match their and their family’s specific needs; and second, by enabling employees to make better decisions year-round, e.g., using virtual assistants to steer employees toward in-network doctors to keep out-of-pocket costs low.
In 2022, we expect most benefits-focused insurtechs to integrate advanced technologies into their decision-support tools. From AI and on-demand virtual assistants to machine learning and data-powered personalized recommendations, new tech is starting to ripple through the benefits industry. Expect a splash in 2022; according to a Guardian survey, 41% of employees want more decision-support tools for the enrollment process.
2. More small employers will offer advanced digital enrollment experiences. For years, insurance carriers and benefits platforms have leaned on EDI for the automated exchange of enrollment and eligibility data. But EDI has been out of reach for most small businesses, leaving them to rely on paper forms and other manual processes. (Nearly 40% of small employers—those with fewer than 50 employees—use paper as the main method for submitting enrollment data to carriers.)
But the tide is turning. Thanks to APIs like Ideon, more HR and benefits administration platforms are bringing the advantages of automation and streamlined data exchange to small businesses. The result: a faster, more efficient, more accurate enrollment experience. That’s why we expect that in 2022 the benefits experiences offered to small-business employees will begin to catch up to those offered at larger companies.
3. The shift to all-API transactions will accelerate (slowly). There’s been much discussion about the shift from EDI feeds to API connections for data exchange. And that shift is very real. Still, most carriers remain tied to EDI systems, even as some are beginning to develop APIs. We see much the same in 2022—an industry majority continuing to use EDI for most data exchanges as the uphill climb toward API transactions progresses relentlessly. As (relatively) unbiased observers, we can say that carrier-connectivity solutions (such as those offered by Ideon) enable benefits-focused insurtechs and HR platforms to connect to multiple carriers through one easy integration regardless of whether carriers prefer EDI, API, or other means.
4. Back-end processes take a front-row seat. From an employee’s perspective, digital enrollment has become commonplace. Most employees (at large firms, at least) have the ability—through the benefits software or app provided by their employer—to review, select, and enroll in benefits digitally. But from the perspective of folks behind the scenes? Not so much.
That’s why we think there will be a focus in 2022 on streamlining enrollment and administration for brokers, HR teams, and enrollment-processing departments at carriers and benefits-administration platforms. For these stakeholders, much of open enrollment is spent setting up EDI feeds, manually keying data into carrier portals, correcting errors, and editing spreadsheets. Streamlining those processes, most industry experts have learned, has a trickle-down effect that makes enrollment faster, more accurate, and more enjoyable for employees, too.
Are we fairly certain about these predictions? Yes. Are we even more certain that however the year unfolds Ideon will be there to smooth out the inevitable bumps in the road? You bet.