It is an exciting time for the life and health insurance industry.
Traditional and new entrants are introducing novel coverages and opening distribution channels to build market share, expand coverage availability, manage risk, save costs, and improve the health and wellbeing of the people they serve. Ultimately, the real winner is the consumer, who is benefitting from creative new propositions offering enhanced financial protection.
Three new business trends are particularly worth noting. The first centers on ecosystem partnerships. The second is the convergence of group and individual offerings, and the third is the emergence of new opportunities for critical illness (CI) cover.
Trend 1: Ecosystem Partnerships
Insurers are developing ecosystem partnerships with non-traditional insurance market participants to create and distribute new products and services, reach new markets, and ultimately improve engagement with their policyholders. Below are some examples of non-traditional entities entering the insurance industry:
- One company supplies a single point of contact to collect data using a contactless video-based software solution. The company deploys machine learning to capture micro changes in facial skin color to measure stress, heart rate, blood pressure, and other metrics.
- Another business addresses the challenge of collecting data from multiple sources. After securing customer permission to collect personal healthcare data, the company provides insurers with a complete and unified view of a consumer’s health, medical, and wellness information.
- A clinical stage healthcare company is applying artificial intelligence and deep learning with dermoscopic imaging to detect skin lesions with a high risk of being cancerous lesions within seconds. Besides saving lives, the approach improves outcomes and reduces health claim costs.
- One vendor offers eight online mental health treatment programs, each confirmed effective by at least one randomized controlled trial, to improve mental health while managing claim costs. Given the increase in depression since the onset of COVID-19, successful and cost-effective mental health programs are more necessary than ever.
These new digital entities come from outside the insurance industry. They are joining the insurance ecosystem and working with insurers to create consumer propositions that enhance the customer experience, improve consumer health outcomes, and ultimately strengthen the insurance value chain in areas such as underwriting and claims.
Trend 2: Converging Group and Individual Coverage
Propositions are emerging that blur the lines between group and individual cover, allowing the consumer to enjoy the best of both worlds. This convergence is occurring against the backdrop of a changing workforce and the explosion in freelance or “gig” workers. Broadly, group and individual insurance are converging in two different ways:
- Strategic archetype 1: Insurers sell individual products through the employer channel, thus tapping into the employee base as another conduit for alternative distribution.
- Strategic archetype 2: Insurers define criteria to combine disparate individuals into a group of their own and offer group products to them (as key decision makers) or voluntary-style products that provide individual choice with elements of group underwriting.
An example of strategic archetype 1 is a group-focused startup offering employee benefits and rewards for working to improve physical and mental health. A proprietary gamified interface with a unique digital currency engages employees with a suite of health services, including employee assistance programs, mental health support, access to virtual physicians, and more. The platform also offers the opportunity to “top up” traditional group benefits and add more individually selected products, effectively opening a new channel to make incremental insurance sales.
An example of strategic archetype 2 is a digital insurance broker and robo adviser that offers income continuation to independent contractors and freelancers in case of illness, sick leave, disability, or death. The platform gathers a disparate community of individuals (freelancers) and effectively recreates the employee benefits those individuals would have enjoyed were they employed in a more traditional arrangement.
Trend 3: Expanding Critical Illness Coverage
CI provides a great canvas for innovation because insurers can experiment with a wide array of benefit designs, payment types, and segment-specific strategies. The possibilities for consumer propositions are almost limitless.
Medical innovation plays a significant role in CI product development. A greater understanding of illness and disease creates new possibilities for insurance coverage, and insurers around the world are taking advantage. Four emerging areas of innovation include dementia benefits, defined disability benefits, precision medicine benefits, and pre-early benefits.
Dementia benefits are evolving and taking various forms. For example, riders are expanding cover to include in-home care facility admission and caregiver support. Insurers are also offering benefits that cover services for preventing and detecting milder or earlier cognitive impairment and help senior citizens age in place to reduce the need for expensive nursing home care.
Defined disability benefits, also known as functional impairment benefits, are a hybrid of CI and disability coverage. For example, one company pays a lump sum for a specific defined medical event, based on the diagnosis and its severity, for those who otherwise would not qualify for traditional occupational disability. The tiered benefit covers a range of CI categories, from upper limbs to cardiac and respiratory events.
Precision medicine benefits provide incremental coverage for higher-cost or specialized medical services for a particular disease. The approach enables insurers to create a comprehensive value proposition around a critical illness in highly competitive markets. As an example, one insurer offers an array of support services to help cancer patients financially, emotionally, and physically.
Finally, pre-early benefits expand traditional CI benefits to less critical but still impactful early-stage diseases. The expectation is that diagnosing diseases sooner will help the consumer secure treatment earlier to hopefully reduce the risk of disease progression to later stages.
As medical innovation continues to advance, CI innovation must likewise advance to keep pace.
Thanks to ongoing product and distribution expansion, life and health insurers are finding new ways to differentiate their brands. Fueled by innovation in technology, medicine, and financial services, these advances will help shape life and health insurance in the years to come.