3 Strategies for Employers to Supercharge Health Benefits for 2021

by Mike Zarrillo, Chief Revenue Officer, Brella Insurance

Half of Americans now fear a health-related bankruptcy, including employees with employer-sponsored health insurance. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is driving health insurance rate increases for 2021 as insurers struggle to predict whether we’ll see a second wave of infections and whether care deferred in 2020 will drive up utilization in 2021.

In light of these realities, employers need new benefit solutions that both ease employees’ fears and help their business cope with the rising cost of employee benefits. This is exactly why we reinvented supplemental health insurance at Brella.

Brella is a new breed of supplemental insurance that covers 13,000+ medical conditions, including many complications of COVID-19. We make it easy for employees to file a claim and once approved receive a cash payout in as little as 72 hours. While traditional voluntary options cover narrow groups of conditions, we eliminate the guesswork by giving employees the peace of mind that comes with broad coverage in one plan.


But what about the second challenge? How can employers cope with the rising cost of health benefits?

After hundreds of conversations with brokers and employers leading up to our launch in Texas, three strategies are gaining traction with HR benefit leaders and their broker advisors.

1. Implement a supplemental plan that truly complements the health plan strategy

You’re probably thinking this isn’t a new strategy. You’re right. But it’s never been more clear that brokers and employers appreciate the flexibility and cost-savings that a supplemental plan can unlock when it comes to the overall health plan strategy. It’s also no secret that with a sound supplemental health option, employees are far more comfortable choosing higher deductible health plans with lower premiums knowing they have added protection in the event of an unexpected sickness or injury.

So what’s standing in the way?

Traditional voluntary benefits like accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity are simply too narrow in their design to provide the broad supplemental coverage needed to unlock real value. To reap the financial savings of a higher deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, employers need a supplemental plan that covers more than just an accident or a critical illness. Medical issues come in all shapes and sizes and many fall through the cracks with old-school supplemental offerings.

Brella was built to be an extension of the health plan. With over 13,000 covered conditions in one product, brokers and employers have a supplemental solution that unlocks meaningful health plan design and funding flexibility.

2. Shift a portion of employer HSA dollars toward a supplemental health plan.

More and more employers are making contributions to employee HSA accounts with an average contribution of $768 for single coverage. However, this equates to only 17% of the typical employee out-of-pocket maximum1. So it begs the question, could a supplemental health plan stretch the employer dollar further for employees and their families in the event of an unexpected medical event?

Employer-funded supplemental health isn’t a new concept, but it’s a challenging one. First, there’s the difficult task of finding room in the employer’s budget. Second, there’s the guesswork needed to pick between distinct products like accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity insurance. Shifting a portion of the employer’s existing HSA spend solves for the budget concern, while installing a wide-ranging Brella plan eliminates the product guessing game.

Employers will appreciate that redirecting $300 of HSA contributions toward Brella’s premiums can turn into a $500 benefit for a broken wrist or $5,000 for a heart attack2 all in one plan. Plus, Brella’s broad insurance coverage provides the flexibility to use benefits in any way the employee chooses, with no annual limits or risk of not having enough funds.

3. Retire underutilized benefits to make room for a supplemental health plan.

Early signs seem to indicate that employers will face difficult choices when it comes to health plan design and cost-sharing considerations in 2021. As a result, many are opting to simplify their benefit packages to prioritize health coverage.

This is a good plan as employee retention has long been tied to health plan satisfaction. The upcoming year certainly has the makings of being one where employees will place greater value on the benefits that address their health insurance concerns and provide additional peace of mind.

Has there been a better time to think about rounding out health coverage for employees? Probably not. And although it may mean freeing up shelf space by retiring underutilized programs, a Brella supplemental plan gives employees more comprehensive health coverage during a time when fears are high and costs have never been higher.

  1. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey.
    2. Note, these are the payout amounts for one of many Brella plan configurations. Actual benefit amounts may be higher or lower.

How to File a Claim with Brella

Too many Americans with supplemental health insurance benefits run into pages of forms, byzantine rules, and broken websites when they turn to their plan for help with medical expenses. So one of our top priorities in building Brella was to make it easy to file a claim and get paid quickly.

We built Brella to say yes to claims.

We set out to build a modern supplemental benefit that actually pays benefits! To deliver on this promise, we designed a simple, comprehensive plan that’s easy to use. Just log on to our mobile app, submit a claim in minutes, and get paid in hours, not weeks.

Saying yes to claims starts with a straightforward plan design. Our plans cover 13,000+ conditions so unlike traditional supplemental plans, Brella is one wide-ranging benefit that pays for critical illness, accidents, cancer, and more, all in one plan. We pay on diagnosis, so the rules are simple. It doesn’t matter where you get care or what treatment you receive. Your diagnosis is all we need to pay cash you can use to cover medical expenses or everyday costs.

So how do you file a claim?

Filing a claim can be notoriously hard to do with traditional insurers. With Brella, you can forget faxes and file a claim from anywhere in minutes with our mobile app.

First, tell us what happened. We’ll ask you for a few details to help us understand your condition.

Next, send us photos to verify your diagnosis. Upload photos of your discharge papers, your wristband, an IV bag, or your cast—anything you have on hand that validates your claim. We accept evidence of your diagnosis from the point of care so you don’t have to wait for bills or paperwork to come in the mail before you can file a claim. We made our requirements flexible in an effort to work with what you’ve got. Hit submit and we’ll review everything within hours.

Transparency every step of the way

After you submit your claim to Brella, it lives on your claims dashboard in the Brella mobile app. Check back any time to see the updated status. Once we’ve reviewed your claim, we’ll let you know that you’ve been approved, or we’ll reach out to you for more information. Our concierge team is available via phone, chat, or email to answer questions anytime throughout the process.

Get paid in hours, not weeks.

A big part of creating a plan that’s designed to say yes is making it easy to get paid. When you become a Brella member, you’ll designate whether you want to be paid by Venmo, Paypal, or ACH to your bank account. That way, we’re set up to pay you quickly anytime you submit a claim. You can change your payment preferences anytime with a few taps in our mobile app.

The majority of our claims are paid within 72 hours, and we’re just getting started. We plan to automate parts of the claims approval process so in the future most payments will happen automatically and instantly.

Claims are at the heart of Brella

Historically, too many Americans have had a confusing and inconvenient experience filing a claim, and this has broken consumer trust with the entire industry.

We built Brella to be a better option and to stand in the gap for the millions of American families who are exposed to medical expenses when health issues arise. We hope to earn trust with a convenient claims process that’s easy to use and delivers on our promise to pay cash quickly whenever you’re sick or injured with a covered condition.

How Brella Helps with COVID-19

COVID-19 reveals why everyone needs supplemental insurance. Over the past few months, we’ve seen COVID-19 send thousands of Americans to the hospital, and many are worried about how they’ll pay for the care they received. In fact, medical worker, Derrick Smith, shared the story of a patient who used his last breaths before being put on a ventilator to ask his wife how they’d pay for his care—a concern no one should have while struggling to breathe.

A few major health insurers have temporarily waived cost-sharing for COVID-related treatment, and the CARES Act has made screenings free, but the financial damage remains to be seen. With 45% of employees on health plans with $2000+ deductibles, out-of-pocket costs could be substantial.

This crisis highlights the reality of financial hardship that too often comes with unexpected medical issues. To address this, we’ve built a new, comprehensive, supplemental insurance plan to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses that health insurance doesn’t cover.

What’s wrong with today’s supplemental plans?

Supplemental plans were designed in the 1980’s to cover narrow groups of conditions like critical illness, accidents, or cancer so you’d have coverage if your health insurance reached its annual max.

But today’s health plans don’t have annual limits. Today we have high deductibles, which leaves families with health insurance exposed to big medical bills for things like pneumonia, appendicitis, or a broken wrist, before their health insurance ever kicks in.

If you have a supplemental plan today, chances are COVID-19 wasn’t around when you enrolled, so it may not be covered. Insurers won’t have an opportunity to add coverage until the next enrollment cycle. Meanwhile, the virus can trigger a wide range of complications that may or may not qualify for coverage.

Plus, many legacy supplemental plans rely on outdated rules and technology, so members have to track down paperwork and fax in complicated forms to submit a claim. Then they wait for weeks, and their claims are frequently denied.

Brella is one simple benefit that pays when it counts

Brella is a modern, comprehensive supplemental benefit that pays cash in hours, not weeks, if you’re diagnosed with any of 13,000+ covered conditions. Members can customize their Brella plan to get coverage that compliments their health insurance and supports their health needs, including chronic conditions and mental health.

So how does Brella cover a disease like COVID-19?

While COVID-19 is not a covered diagnosis, Brella covers many of the most severe complications of the disease including, pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, sepsis, certain heart issues, and kidney issues. There’s no supplemental plan on the market today that covers such a wide range of conditions.

When we designed the Brella plan for comprehensive coverage, we never imagined our strategy would position us to cover the effects of a disease that didn’t even exist yet. But we’re so glad it does! This is exactly why we built Brella.

Health hardship shouldn’t mean financial hardship

Derrick Smith’s story went viral because we are all grappling with the reality that too many American families are facing financial hardship because of unexpected health issues. Brella exists to change this.

We are looking forward to working with brokers and employers to make comprehensive, supplemental benefits available to teams starting this summer in Texas. We know brokers are looking for better benefit solutions, and employers want to provide competitive benefits that truly cover their employees and their families. If that’s you, get in touch!

Why We Built Brella

Over the past 25 years, rising costs and reduced coverage have eroded employee health benefits. Today, all it takes is one unexpected medical event to drain a family’s bank account. With 2 in 5 working age adults visiting the emergency room in a normal year, it’s no surprise that a recent study found 44% of respondents were struggling to pay medical bills. Meanwhile, employers are searching for affordable, comprehensive coverage for their teams.

We believe that health hardship shouldn’t lead to financial hardship. That’s why we built Brella—a simple, comprehensive supplemental benefit that pays fast cash when you’re sick or injured.

We chose the name Brella because our plan covers over 13,000 conditions, more than any other supplemental plan on the market. We’re proud to stake our name on the broad range of coverage we’ll provide to millions of American families.

A modern supplemental benefit

When supplemental insurance first appeared in the 1980’s, separate products were created for accidents, critical illnesses, hospitalizations, and cancer treatment. Those options still exist today—four decades later. Who can say if you’ll face an accidental injury or get diagnosed with cancer next year? We can’t tell the future, and employees shouldn’t have to guess when choosing their benefits.

Rather than stringing together narrow plans with complicated rules and slow payouts, we envisioned a simple, tech-enabled benefit that provides wide-ranging, personalized coverage and pays cash quickly when people need it most.

Brella covers over 13,000 conditions—that’s more than any supplemental plan on the market. If a member is diagnosed with a covered moderate, severe, or catastrophic health issue, we put cash in their pocket quickly for whatever they need. Members can use Brella payouts for medical bills or everyday expenses like childcare, groceries, or transportation until they’re back on their feet.

Plus, Brella is flexible and affordable. Employees can choose from a range of payouts to build the level of protection that best fits their needs. Brella+ provides the option of additional coverage for chronic conditions and mental health. With no pre-existing condition exclusions and customizable benefits, Brella truly works for everyone.

Delivering fast cash when it counts

We built Brella from the ground up to modernize everything about the experience, from filing a claim to getting paid.

If you’re diagnosed with a health issue, open the Brella app and submit a claim in minutes. All we need are photos of items that can be easily collected while at the hospital or urgent care—for example, your x-rays, lab reports, discharge papers, prescription bottle, or a medical bill. We use these to confirm your diagnosis and process your claim quickly—no need to wait for paperwork to show up in the mail.

Our moderate, severe, and catastrophic tiers pay out for all the most common diagnoses, and we make it easy to check what Brella covers and how much it pays. And Brella pays within hours, not weeks, through Venmo, Paypal, or straight to your bank account. Plus, you’ll have the support of a dedicated concierge team for any questions that come up.

In short, we got rid of the complexity and built a better benefit that covers more and delivers fast cash when it counts.

Why Us?

We are a team of insurance and tech industry veterans with the experience and the imagination to build something better from the ground up.

CEO and Founder Veer Gidwaney co-founded and was the CEO of Maxwell Health, which was acquired by Sun Life in 2018. Amanda Turcotte, former Chief Actuary and Head of Underwriting at AXA US, is our Chief Insurance Officer. Our Chief Revenue Officer is Mike Zarrillo, the former VP of Large Market Distribution at Guardian Life Insurance Company. Meet the rest of the team here.

We’re backed by world-class partner RGAX. And we’re proud to partner with some of the world’s leading insurance and technology investors, including Two Sigma VenturesFounder Collective, and SymphonyAI.

Why Now?

Too many families are struggling with medical debt. Brella exists to change that with a modern supplemental benefit that helps people when they need it most.

Companies that care for their employees and strive to retain top talent want to offer benefits that provide more wide-ranging coverage for their teams and their families. Brella helps them do that.

It’s time we face the fact that millions of Americans face financial hardship because of a serious health issue. They deserve better and that’s why we built Brella.