Healthcare benefits and employment have been congruent for many years. Specifically, a large number of Americans seek healthcare coverage through employer-contracted insurance plans, so-much-so that assessing healthcare benefits has become a routine and critical part of the job-hunting process for interviewees.
This has led to interesting conundrums over the years. How do individuals that are unemployed receive healthcare benefits? What about those that own their own businesses, or work for smaller businesses that may not offer health insurance as a part of their benefits structure?
For these instances and more, there is a relatively flourishing private market, allowing people to individually buy their own healthcare plans, independent of their company or employment. This is in addition to Medicaid/Medicare services, which is in its own category of coverage.
But these traditional models may soon be disrupted.
In a piece for Fast Company, Kristin Toussaint writes about how Comunidad Partners, a real estate owner and management firm, is working with Veritas Impact Partners and an undisclosed healthcare company to provide virtual healthcare services to Comunidad tenants.
Currently implemented across nearly 2,000 homes, Toussaint describes how this works: “…residents can connect with a doctor or nurse practitioner via an app to be diagnosed or prescribed treatment virtually; the care covers both physical and mental health, and is completely free to residents, and will be available indefinitely, not just during the pandemic.”
But why is this important? The reality is that the employer-based healthcare coverage model is ripe for disruption, and has been for many years. This new model may be one such game-changer to the industry.
It is undisputed that health insurance is notoriously expensive. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “In 2019, the average annual premiums [were] $7,188 for single coverage and $20,576 for family coverage. The average premium for single coverage increased by 4% since 2018 and the average premium for family coverage increased by 5%. The average family premium has increased 54% since 2009 and 22% since 2014.” The study also includes an additional figure that examines “Cumulative Premium Increases, Inflation, and Earnings for Covered Workers with Family Coverage” from 1999-2019, indicating that “Premium growth continues to outpace both inflation and increases in workers’ earnings.”
Additionally, health insurance in general is a massive industry, valued at nearly $3,153 billion dollars in 2018— providing significant opportunities for entrepreneurship and transformation. Accordingly, many new startups are rapidly trying to organize and innovate in this space. Some have reached significant milestones. For example, Oscar Health, which reportedly has “529,000 members across 18 states,” went public earlier this year.
Especially with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, many things are evolving in healthcare and digital health, and the insurance market will continue to do so as well. This unprecedented venture, spearheaded by a real estate firm, may indeed be a pivotal new way to tackle healthcare coverage. Only time will tell whether the actual execution of this novel idea will be feasible and worthwhile. However, one thing is for certain— if innovators can indeed create systems and means to provide cost-effective insurance services that prioritize patient-care and satisfaction, they may be able to make some viable changes to a notoriously and historically challenging aspect of healthcare.