An open letter to all the individual health insurance carriers we work with in Colorado:
Health insurance is expensive. And it only gets more so as time goes by. People don’t like this. And while every sector of the health care industry needs to be working to cut costs, health insurance carriers need to be working twice as hard at this as everybody else. It doesn’t work anymore to say that we can’t bring down health insurance costs until health care costs come down too. The health insurance industry needs to look at ways to lower costs regardless of what the rest of the health care world is doing. The survival of the private health insurance industry is at stake, and business as usual isn’t going to cut it.
So I have a question for you. How much money are you spending on postage, printing, and paper? This may seem like a mundane issue. It’s more along the lines of keeping your tires inflated than giving up the corporate jet. But I’m curious anyway. We’ve been selling health insurance in Colorado for nearly seven years, and we’ve seen a lot of technology advancements in that time. When we started, all health insurance applications were done on paper. We then faxed or mailed the originals to the underwriting departments at each company. These days, just about every individual health insurance carrier has an online application. All of the carriers that we work with have broker websites where we can log in and see the status of applications, current premiums for each client, renewal premiums, etc; we’ve been able to make our office pretty much paperless.
But although we rarely use our printer, our shredder gets plenty of use. On any given day, we receive somewhere between five and thirty separate envelopes from health insurance companies. The letters are to notify us when clients are approved, declined, behind on premium payments, or canceling a policy. A few health insurance companies have started sending lists of client data on a single page or two, in one envelope. But that is the exception to the rule. Most of the health insurance companies we work with still send us separate letters for each client. Obviously they have to send separate letters in their correspondence directly with the insureds (although I’m sure there are plenty of insureds out there who would love to get all their correspondence by email – just a thought). But why do we need to be getting a stack of 20 letters notifying us that 20 clients have been approved or need to pay their premiums? Especially when we already know the information in the letters because we visit the agent websites every day. Even on the low end of what we get each day, ten letters means $4.20 in postage plus whatever the paper and printing cost. Every day. And we’re just one agency.
Talk of enhancing efficiency and making use of electronic information technology are all over the place right now in the health care sector. Health insurance companies have absolutely come a long way from the days when everything was done on paper and applications routinely took weeks to underwrite. But the amount of mail that we receive every day (all of which is redundant for agents who stay on top of the electronic communications from the health insurance companies) is astounding. In addition to being cheaper and more eco-friendly, electronic communication of data is much more efficient – we find out immediately when an underwriting or administrative action has been taken, rather than waiting two or three days to get a letter in the mail.
I realize that not all health insurance agents utilize the internet the way we do. They may appreciate the paper communications, although the volume of mail (and the cost of postage) could be dramatically reduced if health insurance companies sent out lists rather than separate letters regarding each individual client.
So if there are any health insurance carriers out there looking for ways to cut costs, I highly recommend that you review how you’re communicating with your agents and how much you’re spending on postage and paper. Keeping agents informed about what is going on with their clients is essential. But it doesn’t require stacks of paper mail every day. Most of you have already made the information available to brokers online. Now it’s time to phase out the multiple letters you send to us and all of your other agents every day. Just make sure that the money you save goes directly towards keeping health insurance premiums in check. Your agents and your insureds will thank you.