Are Hospital Indemnity Plans Worth It for Your Employees?

By Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | May 12, 2021

When selecting health insurance benefits for your team, a hospital indemnity plan can seem like an attractive option at first glance. However, hospital indemnity plans pay limited benefits in limited circumstances, which can diminish their value. Here are a few things to think about before offering a hospital indemnity plan to your employees, either on an employer-sponsored or on a voluntary basis.

So, What Is a Hospital Indemnity Plan? 

Hospital indemnity plans were designed years ago to pay benefits if someone is hospitalized. Employers often offer this type of plan because it promises cash payments that can potentially ease an employee’s financial burden if they are hospitalized and incur out-of-pocket expenses. 

The Limitations of Hospital Indemnity Plans

The first issue with hospital indemnity plans is that they only pay benefits if the employee is hospitalized. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 12% of emergency room visits resulted in hospital admission. More efficient modern healthcare and outpatient procedures mean that employees could see less of an opportunity to use a hospital indemnity plan than they might have in years past.  

Another problem with hospital indemnity plans for your employees is their limited coverage. What does a hospital indemnity plan cover, really? It often only covers very specific healthcare services and has limits on the number of hospital stay days it will cover.

Lastly, a hospital indemnity plan is far from an adequate way to shield employees from the sudden financial shock of an unexpected health issue. Until now, an employer would have to combine a hospital indemnity plan with other forms of supplemental health insurance plans just for employees to receive enough benefits to offset what they owe toward their deductible, copays, and coinsurance. However, even with all those supplemental plans, there are still gaps. Accident plans, cancer plans, critical illness plans, and hospital indemnity plans wouldn’t pay any benefits if an employee had a noncritical illness that landed them in the ER but didn’t get them admitted to the hospital. That’s a staggering limitation. 

How can you help employees who are worried about unexpected medical bills?

A Truly Supplemental Alternative

Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan is a great way to offer coverage for employees who worry about paying the cost-sharing associated with their health insurance. Our plan has clear, unambiguous terms and actually covers a wide range of illnesses and injuries — without making your team jump through hoops to use it. Hospital stays are hard enough without worrying about how to pay for them.

We built Brella to offer simple, wide-ranging supplemental health insurance for all types of conditions that generate sudden, unexpected medical bills. We cover more than 13,000 injuries and illnesses, from concussions and dehydration to heart attacks and cancer. Plus, unlike hospital indemnity plans, we don’t have hospitalization requirements. Where care was provided or what the treatment was doesn’t matter. All we need to know is the ICD-10 diagnosis code to pay out a benefit. Our claims process is really that simple.

We offer three benefit categories with customizable payout levels, meaning your team can select the plan that provides the exact level of support it needs. Because we don’t require mountains of paperwork to verify treatment, members can file a claim online in minutes as soon as they’re diagnosed. Once approved, we pay claims within hours — not weeks. Members can receive their Brella benefit payouts before they’re even billed by their medical providers. This offers a major sense of relief to employees when they need to seek medical care.

Plus, Brella is affordable for employees who are concerned about their high-deductible health insurance plans or who opt out of coverage altogether due to costs. Brella can be paid for by you or the employee. What’s more, we can help protect their HSA dollars because we provide a cash infusion when health issues arise. You can opt to redirect HSA dollars to Brella to amplify the impact of those dollars for employees if they’re sick or injured with a condition we cover. It truly is the best way to enhance your major medical insurance.

With Brella, employers benefit from having one supplemental plan to manage (with paperless administration) instead of a string of plans that doesn’t offer the same coverage. And if any issues or questions come up along the way, Brella offers dedicated concierge support for both you and your employees.

To request a demo or a quote, get in touch with us at sales@joinbrella.com. We’d love to hear from you.

How We Redesigned Supplemental Health Insurance

By Amanda Turcotte, Chief Insurance Officer, Brella Insurance | May 5, 2021

Traditional insurance product design starts with a problem: not hitting sales targets, claims are too high relative to premium, claims are too expensive to process, etc. Then what happens?  

The product team brainstorms new ways to configure their existing products to solve the problem, or maybe add a new rider. There might be a broker round-table to listen to feedback from the field and brainstorm together on a solution. The marketing team might give a “voice of the consumer” presentation. Once a solution is identified, the product is developed, filed in 50 states, given a good marketing launch, and set free in the world with high hopes of stellar sales.  

Then what? Usually, the market reaction is less enthusiastic than hoped, but some positive comments come in from a few brokers and insurance leaders pat themselves on the back that they’ve done great work. Sales come in, and—if they’ve projected well—they are on target.  Sometimes they’re above expectations, and then the claims team and risk management gets worried. Sometimes the market doesn’t care at all about this “cool new product innovation.”

Why is this the way we “innovate” on product in the insurance industry?  

At Brella, we take a different approach, using a process called “human-centered design.”  Instead of focusing on a business problem, we focus on the problems in the daily lives of our customers. By focusing our solutions on them, we build better products that resonate throughout the value chain. Solving real problems is powerful!

So how do we do this?  We are relentlessly focused on three things:

1) We listen to people.  

The biggest thing I’ve learned from making the switch to human-centered design is the importance of listening without problem-solving. When a good interviewer or focus-group leader is talking to a research subject, they encourage the participant to talk. They ask open-ended questions, and leave pauses when the subject has finished their initial thoughts…often they continue after a short break and deliver deep insights.  

Even after our initial research is done, our everyday interactions with members, employers, brokers, and providers, are an opportunity to listen with curiosity and try to deeply understand the experience of others in our community. That means we have to resist our initial impulse to solve the first problem they mention, mental wheels whirring as soon as we think we have a solution. Set that aside and just listen, allowing someone to share their experience. You might find their first complaint was only symptomatic of a much larger problem. Human-centered design helps you get to the root issue.

2) We look for qualitative patterns.  

As an actuary, I’m primed to find patterns in numbers. We look for trends, and use those trends to project results. The unstructured data we get from listening isn’t easily put into spreadsheets or summarized in averages and standard deviations…but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize patterns. Using the tools of qualitative analysis, we can draw out insights from interviews and focus groups that are different from anything we could have found by analyzing numbers.

Just as there are experts in quantitative analysis (actuaries, CPA’s, and investment analysts, to name a few), there are also experts in qualitative analysis. Our data is valuable, and analyzing it thoroughly is important if you want to make the right decisions in moving your business forward.  You wouldn’t decide to buy a house just based on its price, age, and square footage (quantitative measures)—you also consider things like location, curb appeal, and accessibility (qualitative measures). Similarly, if you’re only paying attention to quantitative data analysis, you’re likely ignoring important facets of your business that can’t be put on a spreadsheet but have a big impact on results.

3) We think broadly about solutions.  

Insurance is a great tool to help households manage risk. At Brella, we’re focused on solving the problem of sudden, unexpected financial shocks due to medical events. Supplemental insurance is the perfect tool to address that specific problem. However, because we put people first, our next solution may be a savings product, or a credit product, or a consumer education product. Our job is to find the right solutions to address the problems of our members.

There are often practical considerations to delivering a solution that’s outside your company’s core mandate. An insurance company produces and sells insurance—there is some scope to create supplemental educational materials, but there isn’t a lot of flexibility to deliver solutions in other verticals. A new subsidiary could be started to test new non-insurance solutions, or partner and co-market another company’s product to deliver those solutions.

To wrap up

At Brella, we believe that when we are relentlessly focused on delivering value to our customers, we build value in our company. This approach is what led us to completely redesign a supplemental health product that can address the gap in coverage that’s been created over the past decade by rising health insurance deductibles. Who knows where human-centered design could lead your team? To learn more about human-centered design for employee benefits, I recommend listening to this interview with product design consultant, Carolyn McMahon. You can also check out IDEO’s human-centered design kit to try it for yourself. 

How Insurance Leaders Can Learn to Think 10x

by Veer Gidwaney, Founder & CEO of Brella Insurance | April 28, 2021

We live in a world where 60% of Americans would have to borrow to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense, yet if an individual is fortunate enough to have health insurance through their employer, the average individual deductible is $1,644 (source: KFF 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey). No wonder 33% of Americans put off care in 2020 over concerns about cost. 

How do we, as insurance leaders, employers, and brokers, keep burdensome health insurance cost-sharing from delaying care and creating financial stress? A 10% improvement, the kind of upgrades you can make within the framework of your existing policies and platform, isn’t going to cut it. We need employer-sponsored health benefits that create 10x the value for today’s employees. 

But with entrenched business practices and slim tech resources, the insurance industry has lost the ability to think 10x. What would a 10x improvement in health benefits look like? Can we even imagine it? 

As an entrepreneur, I’ve spent my career building up mental muscles for 10x thinking. You can’t build a new company on a 10% improvement of an existing product or incumbents will quickly catch up and take away your competitive advantage. So you have to think in terms of 10x value creation. 

Here’s how insurance industry leaders should start thinking to create 10x value for their clients and members.

First, make sure you understand the problems in your customer’s journey.

This isn’t just about doing surveys. Gather insights through conversations with your customers. Actively engage the people you don’t usually hear from. It can be easy to respond to the loudest complaints from employers or members, but what’s working or failing for the customers who renew every year? What failed for the people whose business you lost? 

This kind of qualitative research, sometimes called human-centered design, might reveal that you haven’t been trying to solve the problems that matter most to your customers. So have some open-ended conversations and get focused on the right problems that need solutions. 

Define what 10x value looks like.

How will you know when you’ve solved your customers’ problems and delivered 10x value? So often in today’s insurance world we’re focused on minimizing the loss ratio. But this can sometimes breed behavior that is in conflict with the interests of the policy holder. We have to focus on customer value, and then build a profitable business on top of that value engine. 

Let’s take a common example from the voluntary benefits space. Employees face huge bills if they go to the hospital, and they often wait weeks to be paid. What if instead of paying a claim in 3 weeks we could pay it in 3 days or 3 minutes? Now we’ve defined something of 10x value that we can aim for.

Next, design a product that delivers 10x value

Only after you’ve understood the customer’s problem and defined what 10x value would look like are you ready to start designing a solution. In our example above, the question becomes, how do we pay a claim in a matter of days or minutes? To get there, you’re going to have to break existing paradigms.

When we thought about that question at Brella, we realized we couldn’t build a product that reimbursed members for treatment, because employees would have to wait for EOBs or other documentation from their providers. Instead, we decided to pay claims based on the diagnosis. 

This approach allows employees to submit evidence they have on hand as soon as they’re diagnosed. A mobile app and online member portal make it really easy to upload photos of documents from your phone. Plus, deciphering the diagnostic code from unstructured data like hospital discharge papers or lab results is something we can eventually automate with natural language processing and AI. 

So by changing our plan design to pay benefits on diagnosis, we added value in the following ways: 

1. Members can submit claims as soon as they’re diagnosed which means they can start a claim much sooner than with today’s supplemental health products. 

2. We can use technology to speed up how the claim gets back to our team, which is a much better member experience than faxing pages of forms to submit your claim.

3. We can adjudicate claims in hours, and, eventually, we’ll auto-adjudicate most claims in minutes because all we need to know is the diagnosis.

By focusing on delivering a better member experience, we ended up building an insurance product that is truly valued, with a healthy and predictable loss ratio. On the way, we were able to build a company with a lean operating model to help keep our premiums low.

One last tip: 10x thinking requires both plan and technology expertise

The only reason we were able to build Brella the way we did was because we had insurance and technology experts at the same table. When you’re dreaming up a new plan design consider involving your platform team earlier in the process. The best way to drive 10x thinking in your organization is to bring cross-functional teams together to focus on designing new solutions to the problems that matter most to your customers.

The Case For Employer-funded Supplemental Health Insurance

By Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | April 21, 2021

Since 1995, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), health insurance deductibles have surged nearly 800%, while premiums have risen by over 300%. Alarming, right? But what’s even scarier is that household income has increased only 18% during the same time period. Yet, far too many employers lack supplemental health protection to bridge the gap.

For years, supplemental health benefits have been an afterthought for benefit advisors and employers who have been focused on coping with skyrocketing health insurance premiums. On top of that, our industry hasn’t delivered a comprehensive supplemental solution to aid in solving the cost crunch. As a result, when supplemental health benefits are offered, they’re left to the employee to buy on a 100% voluntary basis. 

Saddled with multiple outdated, complex, and narrowly-scoped options, enrollment rates in voluntary supplemental health benefits continue to be a challenge. Can the employee afford them? Will the employee understand them? And maybe most importantly, how lucky will the employee be in guessing which one they may actually be able to use in a given year? 

Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, years of rising premiums and cost-sharing, and employee fear of the unexpected, we can no longer afford to treat supplemental health benefits as a voluntary option. If we do, we’ll miss the opportunity to build benefit programs that fulfill their mandate to boost employee retention and productivity. Even worse, employers who offer supplemental health on strictly a voluntary basis may even be undermining their overall health benefits strategy. 

Here’s why it’s time for employers to support and fund a supplemental health solution:

#1: Most of your employees can’t afford today’s health plan cost-sharing. 

The harsh reality is that 60% of Americans in a recent study said they would have to borrow to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense. Meanwhile, the average deductible for an employer-sponsored health plan is $1,644, and the annual out of pocket maximum is over $4,000. Families fare even worse. And a 2020 survey showed that individuals earning $130,000 to $160,000 were just as likely to be financially stressed as those earning $15,000 to $25,000 per year. 

The math simply doesn’t work. Any deductible can feel like a high deductible if your employees don’t have savings to cover the cost of an unexpected health issue. They need a supplemental health solution, and an employer contribution will certainly make it more affordable.

#2: Look beyond traditional supplemental products for new plans that work.

Employers should be choosing benefits that deliver real peace of mind and benefits that keep employees happy and productive in their jobs. Voluntary benefits, like today’s supplemental health options, with complex rules, limited coverage, and unfriendly claims processes are going to give the few employees who actually use them a poor experience. 

Yet according to a recent survey, 76% of benefit advisors endorse a combination of Accident and Critical Illness plans. Did you know that Accident and Critical Illness policies combined only cover 23% of the conditions that typically require emergency medical attention?* There are simply too many common medical conditions that don’t result from an accident or aren’t deemed dangerous or life-threatening. Think kidney stone, appendicitis, a benign tumor, etc. The bottom line is we need to look beyond the traditional plans to find solutions that are worth the investment.

#3: HSAs alone aren’t solving the problem

Don’t get me wrong, HSAs are a terrific financial tool. But they’re most valuable because they defer tax on dollars that can be used to cover medical expenses in the future, ideally after retirement. The “S” in HSA stands for savings, yet a report in 2019 estimated that nearly 75% of HSA contributions were withdrawn. So if health events keep draining their HSA accounts, employees may never build up the kind of balances that can sustain them later in life. 

The average annual employer contribution to an HSA was $870 in 2020. There’s no doubt this helps soften the blow of an unexpected medical event for employees, but depending on the type of condition or how many conditions the employee or their family experiences in a given year it may not be nearly enough. The fact is $870 won’t go very far for most employees. Employer dollars are precious and stretching them as much as possible is where we find meaningful value and return on their investment.

#4 Asking employees to pay is like pouring salt on the wound

Employers have been forced to make some tough decisions when it comes to their healthcare dollars. As a result, employees have seen the value of their health benefits eroded by rising premiums, deductibles, and annual limits. Asking employees to fully pay for the gaps in their health coverage, when they’re already paying more and more every year, may be adding insult to injury.

Importantly, employees understand that employers contribute to the most important benefits in their program. Voluntary benefits are usually at the bottom of a long list where they are starved for attention. Employees can’t be expected to care about plans that the employer signals are not valuable. There may not be a more important benefit than supplemental health to help solve the biggest fear most employees have today. Contributing to a supplemental health plan sends the message that this coverage is important and the employee should take the time to learn how it works. 

Why employer contributions to Brella supplemental health benefits work

Let’s be clear. Employer contributions to a supplemental health plan work wonders but only if the plan is like Brella — wide-ranging coverage and easy to use. Up until now, there hasn’t been a product that amplifies the value of an employer contribution. Rather than pour dollars into low utilization benefits or those with virtually no tie-in to the health benefits strategy, employers can invest in a Brella plan that covers 13,000+ conditions and uses game-changing technology to simplify the claims process and minimize the financial hardship caused by unexpected medical events.

Look it up and you’ll see that supplemental means “provided in addition to what is already present or available to enhance or complete it.” Brella was built to do just that — enhance or complete the overall health plan strategy. And an employer’s contribution is a surefire way to signal its value, peak employee interest, and boost enrollment rates. This in turn drives satisfaction with their health benefits and lets employees focus on doing their best work.

* Statistics aggregated based on Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality annual reports on emergency room diagnoses for working-age adults in the U.S.

Founded in 2019, Brella is modernizing supplemental health benefits to build a world where health hardship doesn’t mean financial hardship. Brella’s simple supplemental plan covers 13,000+ conditions and pays cash on diagnosis that you can use for anything you need on the road to recovery. Learn more at joinbrella.com and follow @brellainsurance.

11 Books Every Benefit Leader Should Read in 2021

By Laura Cave, Director of Marketing at Brella | February 24, 2021

We launched the Better Benefits podcast to gather wisdom from today’s top insurance and benefits leaders. We’ve interviewed industry veterans and insurtech CEOs who are working hard to make benefits work better for employers and their teams. Before we conclude these conversations, we always take a minute to get nosy about the books that helped them get where they are today. We ask: 

“What book or resource had a transformative impact on you either personally or professionally that you think everyone should read?”

Here is a roundup of all the books that have been recommended so far. We also list the impressive titles these leaders have authored themselves. Some are healthcare industry-specific, and others are classic and just-released books packed with wisdom. We hope they inspire and equip you to take your life and work to the next level this year.

Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Our own Chief Insurance Officer, Amanda Turcotte, recommended this book because it had a huge impact on her when she read it as a young professional. It offers both inspiration and practical advice for how to ask for what you want in your life and work. 

Competing Against Luck by Clayton M Christensen

In her book Busy Bee: Queen Bee, former Segment President of Humana, Beth Bierbower, advocates for carving out time to read in the midst of career and family responsibilities. At the top of her reading list is Christensen’s book. He argues that your customer “hires” you to do a job that meets a need. Understanding the real job your customer has hired you to do is the key insight to successfully growing a company and building long lasting relationships with customers at premium prices. 

Truman by Dave McCullough and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Former Lincoln Financial Group Protection President, Dick Mucci, recommends reading the biographies of great leaders. He’s particularly inspired by leaders who have faced extremely challenging situations. Recent favorites include biographies of American Presidents who led our nation through conflicts like the Civil War and WWII.

The Price We Pay by Marty Makary and The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Dave Chase, founder and CEO of Health Rosetta, has authored a couple of books that are essential reading for benefits leaders, including The CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream and his most recent book, Relocalizing Healthcare. He graciously provided us with a link to download the books for free on our recent episode.

As for what’s had a big impact on him as a leader, Dave recommends Makary’s book as an essential primer to understand the challenges in healthcare. He turned to Holiday’s book for inspiration on navigating life’s challenges with the wisdom of the ancient Stoics.

The Healing Organization by Raj Sisodia

Salary Finance’s Chief Development Officer, Anita Ward, recommended this new book after loving the author’s previous work. In this new title, Sisodia argues that a business at its best can be a healing force and a source of joy in society. This has been a huge inspiration to Anita and the team as they’ve been building Salary Finance.

No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings

Alex Frommeyer of Beam Dental recommended the Netflix leader’s new book, No Rules Rules. In it, Hastings presses deeper into the question of how to create company culture that drives success. The book challenges a lot of cultural norms that companies unthinkingly perpetuate. For anyone who wants to spend more time contemplating their company culture and then intentionally designing the culture for a specific outcome, this book will help. 

Catch any of the episodes you missed on your favorite podcast platform or here on our blog. Note, these recommendations are for informational and educational purposes only. This is not an ad and Brella receives no compensation through the links in this post.

4 Health Benefits Strategies That Will Give Your Team Peace of Mind

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer at Brella | February 17, 2021

Unfortunately, when your employees get sick or injured, it’s difficult for them to know what kind of care they’ll need or what it will cost. If they have major cost-sharing responsibilities with their health insurance on top of these uncertainties, employees may delay getting care to avoid unaffordable medical bills. This can lead to further, costlier health issues down the road.

Your employees earn good salaries—they couldn’t be stressed, could they? Contrary to popular thinking, research has shown that it’s not always lower-earning employees who may struggle to afford high out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Recent research found that people who make between $130,000 and $160,000 a year are the second highest group experiencing financial stress, surpassed only by people who earn $25,000 or less.

Employee financial stress impacts all areas of an employee’s life, including their work, which is undoubtedly costing your company. The same report found that people who are financially stressed are more likely to be absent, have strained relationships with coworkers, and leave daily work tasks incomplete. They’re also more likely to be looking for a new job.

The best way to keep your team both healthy and productive is to ensure that your health benefits strategy gives employees the peace-of-mind they need to go get quality care when they need it and focus on doing their best work.

With an ongoing pandemic, rising healthcare costs, and challenging economic headwinds, there’s never been a better time to make sure your employee health benefits put your team’s mind at ease. Here are a few tactics to get you started:

1. Supercharge your team’s health insurance.

If your team should become sick or injured during the year, a small investment in Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan can go a long way toward helping them cover high out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Brella stands apart from traditional voluntary plans because we offer a wide range of coverage all in one plan, and we make it easy to file a 100% paperless claim.

With personalized benefits for more than 13,000 conditions — from dehydration and concussions to heart attacks and cancer — your team won’t have to worry about whether they’ll be covered if an unexpected health issue arises. Brella brings peace of mind quickly, paying cash via Venmo, Paypal, or directly to the employee’s bank account within hours of claim approval.

2. Make health benefits easy to use.

Your team can’t rest easy if they have benefits that are hard to use and a hassle to figure out how to access. Too many benefit offerings are stuck in the past, using confusing terminology and outdated processes instead of simple solutions backed by modern technology. Brella’s claims experience, on the other hand, is fast and easy.

Your employees can easily file their claims online or through the Brella app using readily available information about their diagnosis. There’s no need to wait weeks for EOBs or invoices before filing. They can take photos of things like a discharge summary, a prescription, or even an emergency room wristband. Once they hit “submit,” our team will review the claim and pay cash within hours of approval.

3. Select employee health benefits that include support.

Your employees are more aware — and more worried — than ever about their health thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In light of this uncertainty and the complexity of today’s health benefits, offering guidance and education about your employee health benefits is key to your team’s peace of mind.

To that end, Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan offers members a dedicated Concierge (a real person!) devoted to supporting them throughout their membership. That means if your team ever has a question or problem, we’ve got an easy solution — and that’s a relief to employees who’ve had bad experiences trying to get answers about their benefits.

4. Don’t wait until open enrollment to take action.

Waiting for open enrollment to update your health benefits strategy is risky at a time like this. Your employees may struggle to cover out-of-pocket healthcare costs this year because they didn’t anticipate or understand the costs that might be coming their way when they elected their health insurance plan. 

Fortunately, you can introduce Brella off-cycle in just a few weeks without creating administrative headaches. Our paperless implementation and account setup are quick and easy. We can handle enrollment on our platform where employees can personalize their benefits and enroll in minutes.

Your employees have enough to worry about without stressing over whether they’ll be able to afford care when they get sick or injured. With Brella’s simple supplemental health insurance plan, your employees can get the peace of mind they need to thrive at work.

If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker get in touch with us at sales@joinbrella.com today.

4 Ways to Reduce Employees’ Unexpected Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

By Mike Zarrillo, Chief Development Officer at Brella | February 10, 2021

Like most employers, you’ve probably had to make some tough choices to control the cost of your company’s health benefits in the past decade. In an effort to control rising premiums, employee healthcare costs in the form of deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and other out-of-pocket medical expenses have increased substantially.

Today, as much as 83% of insured workers are stuck with an average deductible of $1,644. Only a decade ago, 70% of workers had a $917 deductible on average. All in all, these numbers amount to an 111% increase in the burden of deductibles for insured workers! That’s not to mention the rise in out-of-pocket maximums, which the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services allowed to increase 35% since the Affordable Care Act was passed just 7 years ago.

The average out-of-pocket cost for healthcare is a heavy burden for your employees to bear, and unfortunately many don’t realize the implications of their plan until they’re faced with unaffordable medical bills after being treated for a health issue.

Given the fact that only 39% of Americans can afford to cover an unforeseen $1,000 healthcare expense, employers who don’t help their team manage healthcare costs risk the loss in productivity and morale that comes when employees are stressed about finances.

The good news is that by offering innovative and practical employee health benefits, employers can help their teams manage the average out-of-pocket costs for healthcare and any unexpected medical expenses that come their way. Try the following strategies to help ease the burden for your employees:

1. Offer a truly supplemental health insurance plan.

Traditional supplemental health insurance plans fall short when it comes to filling the gaps left by your employer-sponsored health insurance. Accident plans only cover accidents, for example, which excludes illnesses. Critical illness plans limit coverage to a short list of covered conditions, and hospital indemnity plans only apply if an employee is admitted to the hospital. As a result, sudden out-of-pocket medical expenses often aren’t covered by traditional voluntary policies. 

We started Brella because we believe supplemental health insurance plans should actually provide financial relief when employees are sick or injured. In just one simple plan, Brella covers more than 13,000 injuries and illnesses with no accident or hospital admission requirements. With Brella, your employees can choose the level of coverage they need to offset their cost-sharing responsibilities. Plus, they can use Brella’s benefits to cover other everyday costs that may pile up like groceries, transportation, and childcare. 

2. Choose employee health benefits that are easy to use.

Supplemental health insurance plans often sound great, but in practice they’re difficult to use. Most require employees to fill out and fax in long claim forms. And employees often wait weeks for their benefits to be approved and paid. This was once the norm in most of the business world, but today’s consumers want fast, digital experiences that provide greater ease and transparency. 

Brella makes it much easier to file a claim — and receive cash benefits for a wide range of covered conditions. All your team has to do is download the Brella app or log on to their online Member Portal. They can submit a claim in minutes and, once approved, they’ll receive their benefits in a few hours. 

Best of all, your employees don’t have to wait until their bill comes to file a claim. Any evidence that verifies their diagnosis will do. Employees can submit photos of items they commonly have on hand after treatment, such as photos of their hospital wristband, cast, or IV bag, discharge paperwork, lab results, or prescriptions. By offering employees a modern, easy-to-use way to control healthcare costs like Brella, you’ll not only save them money, but time and stress as well.

3. Improve financial and healthcare literacy.

Employees who have a solid financial position and who understand their benefits are less likely to be stressed by their health insurance cost-sharing responsibilities. However, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and research has shown that 25% of those struggling make over $160,000 per year. Financial literacy, coaching, and health benefits navigation services can help employees across your organization build a stronger financial position and make more confident healthcare decisions. 

4. Don’t wait until 2022—make benefits changes off-cycle.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employees have new health concerns and pent up demand for care that was deferred in 2020. This means your employees are more likely than ever to pay out of pocket for healthcare in 2021. They can’t wait until 2022 for support. Consider adding supplemental health coverage like Brella off-cycle. It’s easier than you might think.

Brella was built to easily bolt onto existing health benefits programs. Our paperless implementation and account setup and easy online administration, we won’t create administrative headaches for your team. Plus, your team can learn about Brella, make their benefit selections, and enroll in minutes through our proprietary enrollment platform, Brella Enroll.

By carefully researching your choices and making bold changes early in 2021, you can ease the looming financial burden of out-of-pocket medical expenses for your employees and offer them much-needed peace of mind.

Don’t wait until next Open Enrollment to bring your team relief. If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker email sales@joinbrella.com today.

3 Signs Your Health Benefits Strategy Is Costing More Than You Think

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | February 3, 2021

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to employers that financial stress is a leading cause of anxiety for employees. Because of the coronavirus, finances are tighter than usual for a lot of people. In fact, income is still below pre-pandemic levels for 42% of households.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that this financial stress might be related to gaps in your company’s health benefits strategy. If you’re like most employers, the unrelenting increases in the cost of your health benefits has forced you to make some tough decisions in order to gain financial control. Those tough decisions often result in insurance plans that simply can’t offset the high cost of healthcare for your employees. What may seem good for business isn’t actually good for the people in it: Plans with higher cost-sharing and deductibles burden employees with prohibitive upfront costs that lead to more financial stress.

In turn, employee financial stress can have negative effects on your company. The sleepless nights caused by this kind of stress make employees 10 times more likely to leave daily work tasks unfinished, nine times more likely to have problems with their co-workers, and two times more likely to look for a different job.

So how do you know if your health plan is adding stress to your employees and costing them — and your business — too much? And what should you do to fix it?

Your health benefits strategy might be causing your employees financial stress if…

1. Your employees are delaying healthcare.

Preventive healthcare services are crucial in catching health issues early and keeping more costly treatments at bay. Yet employees are putting off treatment due to the high cost of medical bills. In 2020, 33% of Americans reported either putting off treatment for a medical condition or knowing a family member who had done so in order to save money.

If your health benefits strategy includes higher deductibles and cost-sharing, many of your employees may be forced to do the same thing. With additional COVID-19 concerns in 2020, look out for more claims in 2021 to get an idea of just how common it was for employees to delay care.

2. Your employees are absent or less productive than usual.

The high cost of healthcare doesn’t just impact employees’ stress — it also impacts their productivity. How exactly can financial stress affect employee productivity? The more expensive it is to get treated, the more likely employees are to delay getting care for unresolved or chronic health issues. This, in turn, pushes the stress and health issues to even greater heights.

That’s not a formula that empowers your team to do their best work. Instead, it leads to reduced productivity and increased turnover costs of anywhere between 13% and 18% of your yearly payroll. That means employee stress isn’t just a morale issue — it could be hurting your company’s bottom line.

3. Financial stress is leading to employee health issues.

For many people, the high cost of healthcare is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial stress. Worry over credit card debt, student loans, and rent or house payments plague many employees. Add to this the fact that half of adults in the U.S. worry that “a major health event in their household could lead to bankruptcy” and you have a cumulative effect that harms not only employees’ happiness in their personal lives and their productivity at work, but also their health.

People dealing with financial stress are six times more likely to suffer from panic attacks and seven times more likely to suffer from depression. Chronic stress has serious effects on a person’s physical health, too. Not only can it cause headaches and digestive problems, but it can also have more dire repercussions, like increased risk of heart disease. Financial stress and health are inextricably linked, for better or worse.

Brella is here to ease employees’ financial stress.

Fortunately, there are innovative options for mitigating the effects of financial stress on the health of both your employees and your company.

Adding a supplemental health insurance plan like Brella can help employees handle unexpected medical bills. Brella eases the burden of out-of-pocket costs by offering cash-on-diagnosis for more than 13,000 conditions — from broken bones and pneumonia to heart attacks and cancer. Brella can even be added off-cycle so employees don’t have to wait until next year to get help.

We make it easy to file a claim with just a few photos of documents employees usually have on hand after they receive their diagnosis. They’ll be able to file a claim online or via the Brella app in minutes. Once approved, they’ll be paid by Venmo, PayPal, or directly to their bank account within hours, not weeks. 

And we didn’t just make things easy for your employees. Implementation, enrollment, and ongoing administration are 100% paperless, so employers can offer superior supplemental coverage without administrative headaches.  

Together, these changes can put your employees on the path to becoming healthier, more financially supported, and ultimately more productive. That’s not only good news for them — it’s good for your company’s bottom line, too.

If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker get in touch with us at sales@joinbrella.com today.

Jumpstart Your 2021 Employee Health Benefits With Off-Cycle Enrollment

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance | January 20, 2021

In the midst of the economic uncertainty of 2020, many businesses hesitated to make major changes to their employee health benefits programs for the 2021 plan year. With employees deferring certain healthcare services to 2021 and the pandemic raging on, we’re entering a year when the ongoing risks and pent up demand for healthcare have never been higher.

For the average family with a deductible and cost-sharing responsibilities, that means medical bills are in the not-too-distant future. Are your employees prepared for that?

Naturally, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified these financial concerns for employees — especially those who reviewed their employee benefits and made elections months ago. They may be unprepared to manage the cost-sharing required by their health plan if they have an unexpected health issue in 2021.

Will you leave them in this situation until 2022?

Rather than waiting, smart benefits advisors and employers are making changes now to improve their employer-sponsored health benefits. Here’s why:

1. Financially stressed employees are less productive.

An illness or injury can happen at any time, and until the majority of our communities are vaccinated, COVID-19 continues to pose a threat. As the year unfolds and the pandemic continues, employees may realize that they selected a plan during the 2020 health insurance enrollment period that leaves them too financially exposed should they need healthcare. Some employees may already have medical bills stacking up, and their financial stress makes them less productive and more likely to be absent from work. 

Smart employers are recognizing this need and working with their brokers to identify solutions, even if it means introducing a new benefit outside of the annual open enrollment period.

2. New benefits can prevent or alleviate financial stress.

Unfortunately, financial stress among employees is real. In fact, 50% of U.S. adults fear bankruptcy due to a major health event. That’s a heartbreaking statistic but one that can be addressed with new benefits designed to prevent or alleviate financial stress.

Brella’s supplemental health insurance plan is one example. Our simple supplemental plan pays cash on diagnosis for any of the 13,000+ covered conditions. It’s designed to help ease the burden of the up-front out-of-pocket costs families must pay with most health insurance plans. 

In addition, financial tools such as HSAs and salary-linked loans can help employees avoid going into debt or borrow responsibly if necessary. Salary-linked loans, such as those from Salary Finance, can even help employees improve their credit so they can finish 2021 in a better financial position. 

3. Off-cycle enrollment can lead to better employee engagement.

Without the noise that comes with the annual open enrollment period, introducing a new employee benefit off-cycle gives employees a better opportunity to learn about the benefit and make a decision that works best for their situation. Plus, a new benefit that starts off-cycle means employees will already be familiar with the program come next Open Enrollment. 

Brella was built to make enrollment a snap no matter what time of year you introduce us to your team. Our standalone enrollment platform, Brella Enroll, provides an end-to-end online education and enrollment experience. In just a few clicks, employees can learn how Brella works and personalize their benefits to meet their individual needs.

Brella makes off-cycle enrollment easy.

Adding Brella off-cycle gives your employees the opportunity to supplement their health benefits at a time when the risks have never been higher. What’s more, our supplemental health insurance plan standardly covers many conditions related to COVID-19*, such as pneumonia, respiratory distress, and respiratory failure. That brings peace of mind so employees can focus on doing their best work.

Health-related benefits are valued above all other employee benefits, so an easy-to-use supplemental health insurance plan will support your employee retention efforts. Don’t let “we missed the open-enrollment window” stand in the way of providing benefits that employees will appreciate. It’s never the wrong time to bring employees much-needed peace of mind. Instead of waiting, strengthen your employee benefits package with off-cycle enrollment in a robust supplemental health plan that meets employees’ needs now when they need it most.

If you’d like to learn more about Brella, have your broker get in touch with us at sales@joinbrella.com today.

*Please note that a COVID-19 diagnosis is not a covered condition. However, as described above, associated medical conditions may be covered.

This Isn’t Your Grandma’s Supplemental Health Insurance Plan

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Insurance Officer, Brella | January 13, 2021

As brokers and employers know all too well, the cost of employee health benefits is rising, and this frightful trend doesn’t show signs of stopping. To cope with rising premiums, health plans have shifted costs to the employee via deductibles, contributing to a nearly 800% rise in the average employee’s deductible over the past 25 years. Compare that to only 18% wage growth during the same period, and you can see the crisis that’s at a breaking point for American families. It’s no wonder interest in supplemental health insurance is growing.

Supplemental health insurance plans exist to help offset the out-of-pocket costs that fall to employees and their families when injuries or illnesses strike. Theoretically, supplementing employee health benefits this way gives employers more flexibility in their health benefits strategy and provides better coverage that can help them attract and retain talented employees.

The problem with today’s supplemental health insurance plans

In reality, employees are often disappointed to find that supplemental health insurance plans don’t adequately offset their healthcare costs or don’t cover what they expected. Why? Accident plans cover accidents, but not illnesses. Critical Illness plans only cover a small list of the most dangerous or life-threatening conditions— but if an employee gets a serious illness that isn’t on the list, it’s not covered. And hospital indemnity plans only provide coverage if an employee is admitted to the hospital. These limitations negatively impact the value of these benefits, too often leaving employees and their families in the lurch with medical bills that exceed their savings.

Asking employees to choose between supplemental health insurance plans like accident or critical illness policies forces them to guess and gamble on which type of health issue they might face in the coming year. No one knows what will happen in the future, and employees shouldn’t have to cross their fingers.

On top of this, today’s supplemental health plan options aren’t known for being easy to use. To file a claim, employees are required to complete long and confusing forms. Meanwhile, employers and brokers struggle to find time to implement and administer multiple plans on top of medical, dental, vision, disability, and life insurance.

How we built a better supplemental health insurance plan

We had these issues in mind when we set out to build the best supplemental insurance plan on the market. Here’s how we did it.

First, we solved the issue of coverage.

Rather than just covering accidents or hospitalizations, Brella covers more than 13,000 injuries and illnesses in one simple plan. Employees can choose the level of coverage they need to help offset the burden of their health insurance deductible, cost-sharing, and any other expenses that come up on the road to recovery.

Then, we simplified the rules.

Brella is a guaranteed issue plan with no pre-existing condition exclusions, and we pay benefits based simply on the diagnosis. There are no covered accident or hospitalization requirements. That means employees can access their benefits as soon as a licensed provider diagnoses their condition—not weeks later when a bill or EOB comes in the mail. If it’s a covered condition diagnosed by a licensed provider, their Brella plan will pay. It’s that simple. 

Next, we used technology to make it easy to file a claim.

Brella is 100% paperless! Our innovative plan design opened the door for technology to make claims easy. Employees can log in and file a claim by uploading photos of their documents, hospital wristbands, prescriptions—even a photo of their cast straight from their smartphone. They can even do it before they leave the point of care. Plus, our game-changing technology allows us to pay claims within hours— not weeks! Read more about how we made it easy to file a claim.

And we didn’t forget about the employer. We made Brella easy to implement and administer.

We know change is never easy and brokers and employers can’t take advantage of a new plan if it’s difficult to implement, enroll, and administer. Our process is completely paperless, and employees can enroll on our standalone enrollment platform, which offers the convenience of self-serve enrollment with white-glove support from our Brella Concierge team. Want to use an existing benefits administration platform? We can support that, too.

Yes, we’re different, and that’s a good thing! But don’t miss the forest for the trees. 

Brella’s supplemental health insurance brings peace of mind.

With wide-ranging coverage that truly complements their employer-sponsored health insurance, Brella members can get the healthcare they need with less worry that their savings will be decimated by medical bills. With fast financial relief from Brella, members can focus on their recovery. That means better health, and better health is priceless.

If you’re an employer in Texas, ask your broker about Brella. Brokers can email sales@joinbrella.com to request a quote, kick the tires, and ask all the questions about our supplemental health insurance plan.