Obamacare changes the business of insurance

Beth Fitzgerald//October 28, 2013//

Obamacare changes the business of insurance

Beth Fitzgerald//October 28, 2013//

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Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is interested in picking up previously uninsured people — the intended goal of the ACA. But the company has been investing millions of dollars the past few years in an attempt to transform itself into a more consumer-oriented company.

Horizon is envisioning a new world where people shop for health insurance plans for themselves and their families — instead of depending on their employer to pick their health plan.

“The ACA is going to heighten this movement towards consumerism, where the individual consumer will make more health care purchasing decisions,” said Christopher Lepre, Horizon’s senior vice president of market business units.

The ACA hastened this trend: The new online marketplace where individuals can purchase health plans — at least, in theory, though technical glitches in the healthcare.gov site have stalled this — is envisioned as a consumer shopping experience like buying an airline ticket from Travelocity.

Because of it, Horizon expects to sell more plans directly to consumers.

In some cases, employers will guide their workers to so-called “private exchanges,” where the employers provide a subsidy the employees will use to purchase a plan from a menu of different options.

These private exchanges have begun to emerge nationwide in the last couple of years, and last summer, Horizon launched its own private exchange, Horizon Select, where employers can offer workers a menu of plans.

In some sense, the ACA is a massive, nationwide test of how to go about teaching consumers how to buy health insurance.

“Health insurers like us had to modify and retool our marketing efforts, our products and how we interacted with consumers to become a more consumer-oriented business,” Lepre said. “We had to build our online capabilities so that consumers could come on HorizonBlue.com, compare the plans that Horizon offers and buy a plan directly from Horizon’s website.”

Donald Savoy, president of the Florham Park benefits firm Savoy Associates, offered his 85-member staff the Horizon Select program last summer.