The Groundswell of Something Bigger


By Patty Starr, Presdient & CEO, Health Action Council 
With the disorder and turmoil that 2020 has wrought, it seems as though we are ripe for some type of momentous change. At the very least, our current situation presents opportunities to collaborate, innovate, and evolve.
If we take a look at history, the growth and widespread adoption of e-commerce was prompted by the SARS epidemic which ravaged Asia in 2002. The sharing economy rose out of the 2009 financial crisis. The growth of solar equipment, electric cars and plant-based meat substitutes comes from the more recent focus on climate control. Although most people would argue that we’ve already experienced a momentous change in 2020 (and I would agree with them), I would counter that we’re still in a state of flux and as recent history demonstrates, it seems likely that larger, perhaps far more significant changes are still coming down the pike. 
Part of it is because we’re still living in the COVID environment of fear. Most places you go, you’ll see people (mostly) wearing masks and keeping their distance. If you turn on the tv, open your laptop, or glance through a newspaper, you will immediately be inundated with infection and mortality numbers or maybe new hot spots and places where the virus is slowing. We are constantly reminded of the fact that we’re living in a pandemic environment. A confusing environment. One where some schools are open and some are closed, some sports are being played and some aren’t, some establishments can operate and some cannot and then there are the businesses that are closing their doors permanently. Whether we’re thinking about ourselves and our families or our organizations and our employees, it’s challenging to try and make heads or tails out of what’s happening and what our next move should be.  
As self-funded employers, we’re in the business of employee health so we have to know our next moves; it’s our job to do so. A recent survey of our members shows they believe that their current benefits and strategies were adequate to meet the care needs of their employees and dependents during the pandemic. This is good news, as we know employer-sponsored insurance covers about half the population. However, millions of individuals have experienced coverage disruption due to job loss. These disruptions will cause individuals to switch to another source of employer coverage through a family member, Medicaid, or a non-group market product. Others will remain uninsured. It is unfortunate that we continue to lack a focused approach to promoting access to affordable health coverage.  
Despite the influx of billions of dollars made available through HHS, the pandemic environment and other COVID-related complications proved a pivot point for hospitals. In the past several months we have seen closed wings and laid off practitioners with some medical practices across the country shutting down entirely. This is more than surprising given the year over year rising healthcare costs for employers, employees, and individuals all while health systems continue to consolidate and expand.   
At least health technology has been up to the challenge. Despite facing years of barriers, the pandemic environment has created unprecedented opportunities to lift geographic and site of service restrictions allowing telehealth services to flourish wherever an individual is located. Although not universally accessible nor is it without flaw, health technologies are for the most part moving things forward. Advances in video, diagnostics and security have made much of this possible. Of course, there’s bound to be complications, but with shifting consumer preferences and continued technology advancements, this emerging hybrid model of healthcare delivery is likely to stay.  
The pandemic has reshaped every aspect of our lives. It’s had a tremendous impact on our environment, workforce, medical system, the way we use technology, the economy, etc. But what if these are just components of a greater overall shift? The point, in fact, is it possible that a greater shift has already happened and we just don’t see it yet. Much like when the Titanic met the iceberg and didn’t know she was sunk, maybe we’ve already experienced a great collision whose impact has yet to fully materialize. 
If so, what does this mean for employer-sponsored insurance?

Posted: 9/15/2020 12:39:26 PM
Filed under: Benefit, Benefit Plans, benefits, employee, employee benefits, Health, medical, savings
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