Forbes: Would You Buy Insurance From A Tech Giant? 55% Of Americans Would, New Survey Shows
With the cost of health insurance ever rising, Americans are longing for better options.
That dissatisfaction is leading many to be open to insurance alternatives in some surprising places, according to a recent survey from Breeze, a disability and critical illness insurance company.
More than half of Americans surveyed (55%) said they would buy a hypothetical insurance product from Amazon and 46% say they’d buy insurance from Google. Fewer (38%) said they’d consider purchasing insurance from Facebook.
When it comes to health insurance specifically, 59% of respondents said they would buy health insurance from a company like CVS or Walgreens. This openness may be due in part to the fact that CVS already owns Aetna, through which it offers health insurance to 39 million people across the country.
It may also reflect desperation on the part of consumers.
Though most Americans have options, thanks to the Health Insurance Marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, healthcare costs continue to squeeze consumers. According to Gallup, 71% of Americans think their household pays too much for the quality of healthcare they receive and nearly one-third report having skipped medical care because of costs.
Eagerness for new and better insurance options may also reflect how vital health insurance is, according to Colin Nabity, CEO and cofounder at Breeze.
“Everyone needs it and we use it often, so if a tech or bigger company came in and simplified the processes, from applying to submitting claims, than I think people would be very intrigued to try something new,” Nabity said.
Shane McCoy, a board-certified entomologist and founder and president of Aspect Pest Control, is one of those people who’s willing to try a new approach if it means saving money.
“Health insurance premiums for small business owners and independent contractors are at an all-time high. They are simply unaffordable for many Americans,” McCoy said. “If Amazon, Facebook, Google, CVS, or Walgreens were able to offer a premium health insurance product at scale that would answer the affordability question for myself and others like me, I would absolutely buy it from them.”
Paul C. Seegert, managing partner at PCS Advisors, a benefits advisory firm, says he, too, would consider buying insurance—and recommend his clients do the same—but only if these companies addressed key elements missing from most current options, such as transparency and free market forces.
“Their product would need to arm the consumer with the information needed to make good buying decisions based upon both cost and quality. It would also reward them for making good decisions,” Seegert said. “By doing these things they would cut the cost of healthcare in half.”
Jake Sattelmair, co-founder and CEO of Wellframe, a digital care management company, says he welcomes disruptors such as Amazon, Apple, Walgreens, and Walmart.
“The digital health market has long been anticipating a big player to step up, and these companies’ increasing investment means that more people will have better access to care,” Sattelmair said. “Consumer demand for seamless experiences is bleeding into healthcare, and it’s now more important than ever that health plans enhance the patient experience and push back against the rising cost of care. This changing mindset has opened up a vacuum for other organizations to come in and own different parts of the healthcare journey.”
But not everyone is open to large tech companies getting into the insurance business.
“The thought of giving more power to an organization like Amazon, and more access to personal information, is honestly frightening to me,” said Betsy Brook, a 40-year old stay-at-home parent from Florida.
Brook is uncomfortable with the idea of buying health insurance from a technology company with no healthcare expertise or background in insurance. She is only slightly more open to a CVS or Walgreens because at least they are healthcare companies.
“It’s easy to see why someone would distrust a company like Facebook to provide health insurance coverage,” said Charles Helms, founder of Tracking Advice, a shipping information website. “Why would you entrust your money to an institution that probably knows more about you than even you do? There is no way of knowing how Facebook might use their hold on your personal data to their advantage.”
But Helms is conflicted.
“On the other hand, there is an irresistible draw towards these companies because they are stable businesses that have business models that can reasonably expected to be secure in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Financial stability isn’t enough to convince Theresa Hush, CEO of Roji Health Intelligence.
“I wouldn’t buy health insurance from any of these companies because health insurance is not a commodity purchase,” Hush said. “It’s the admission ticket to the healthcare system.”
That system, Hush says, is built on the relationships between healthcare providers and financing partners, such as insurers and employers.
“Can Amazon, Facebook, and Google create the infrastructure to guarantee access to healthcare through negotiated arrangements?” Hush said. “It’s a stretch.”
Despite skepticism of tech giants, the bar they’d need to cross may not be especially high.
“While some of the [tech] companies … do have their share of reputational baggage that would presumably follow them into the health insurance market, the baseline approval of health insurance companies is already pretty low among Americans,” said Ann Martin, director of operations of CreditDonkey. “I do think there is hunger for healthcare alternatives right now, and some of these companies might have success marketing themselves as something different.”
Some experts still think that openness to tech companies entering new healthcare markets, such as medications, may stop short of health insurance.
“I don’t think consumers are quite there yet,” said Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath.
But, she says, tech giants could potentially change the game for people with few options, such as people who are uninsured, underinsured, and living in areas without access to care.
Wellframe’s Sattelmair also sounds a cautiously optimistic note: “My hope is that high tech can combine with high-touch care to move insurance from a transactional, episodic experience to a continuous, relationship-driven and rewarding one.”
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(Deb Gordon is a writer for Forbes)