Important Trends in the Small Group Market – Q&A with Tim Rhatigan

As senior vice president of small business for California, Tim Rhatigan passionately believes in UnitedHealthcare’s mission to help people live healthier lives. As an industry veteran with deep broker, general agent and payer experience, Tim has a track record of entrepreneurial success as a leader, rainmaker and innovative growth strategist. For the past 13 years, Tim has led strategic planning, business and product development to create more affordable choices and best in class service experiences for members, employers and business partners.

With more than 27 years in the health insurance industry, Tim answered some important questions small business owners and brokers should know about health benefits.

What are the most important trends in the small group market?

Employers are increasingly looking for ways to help provide their workforces with access to a more personalized, convenient and simplified care experience. By using technology, pro-consumer benefit designs and more modern care models, health plans and care providers are collaborating to help achieve the triple aim of better care, better health and lower costs.    

Emerging technologies, such as telemedicine and connected devices, can help remove barriers to care and make treatments more convenient, cost effective and data driven. Meanwhile, the growing use of wearables – combined with the strategic use of incentives – is proving effective in motivating people to take charge of their health. 

A continuing trend is the transition away from fee-for-service payment models to a value-based care approach. Value-based care models can foster increased accountability for quality and cost, such as shared savings programs and performance-based contracts, and reward health care providers for effectively managing people’s health. For instance, UnitedHealthcare has developed more than 1,200 accountable care organizations (ACOs). We have seen that the most effective ACOs perform better than non-ACOs on 87% of the most common quality measures, including reducing hospital admissions up to 17% and costs by up to 12%.  

Developing a health care system focused on quality – and using technology and incentives to help encourage healthier habits – can drive important improvements in how health plans and care providers collaborate to support people on their journeys toward better health.

Are certain ancillary benefits more suited to small groups? 

Dental and vision are the two most popular ancillary – also known as specialty – benefits. In fact, 77% of people said having vision and dental coverage options is important to them during open enrollment, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.

Many people select these two benefits because they expect that they, or their family members, will use them regularly. There is also growing evidence of a link between dental and eye health to overall health, as well as to an array of chronic medical conditions. Having these benefits can help prevent disease before it starts, and if necessary, improve the prevention or management of certain chronic conditions.

Some employers are rounding out their benefit options by adding other specialty plans, including accident, critical illness, disability and hearing. Offering these plans as part of an employee's menu of benefit options maximizes the effectiveness of a company's health care dollars, while helping build a culture of health and providing families with additional coverage.

What are the keys to being a successful broker to small groups?

Successful brokers are mindful to what's coming next and are able to adapt to a fast-changing and fluid marketplace.

The continued creation of clinically integrated networks has prompted the need for brokers to articulate to clients the benefits of these new collaborations between health plans, care providers and pharmacies. Helping employers better understand and take advantage of these new models of health care provides a more personalized experience, improved outcomes and lower costs for their employees.

Are there certain sales techniques that are most effective with small groups? 

The goal is to make the health insurance buying process as simple as possible, and listening remains the most effective sales technique. By becoming better listeners and understanding the needs of a particular employer and its employees, we can better align those needs with available technologies and new care models.

Understanding and balancing the needs of an employer with the needs of the employees is the key. Brokers can increasingly add value by recommending the right products that provide the appropriate type of access to care. By listening and understanding the needs of each employer, brokers can promote a personalized health care experience and help maximize the value of the medical and ancillary benefits.