Categories: Know

Tampa innovation company lowers healthcare costs for workers, employers

A Tampa company that’s disrupting the healthcare system is rebranding to reflect its latest innovation in the health insurance space.

BeniComp Insurance Company is changing its name to BeniComp Health Solutions, said CEO Doug Short.

“We have been viewed as an insurance company and have used that as our title for some time, but we believe a better description for us will be as a technology company doing insurance, rather than an insurance company doing technology,” Short said.

The company also is launching a new product, IncentiCare, a health plan that works with self-funded employer groups and addresses both rising employee deductibles and increasing healthcare claims linked to chronic diseases. It allows employees to control their own deductibles by earning rewards linked to health results. Improved employee health means fewer and less costly claims.

“We believe that we are positioned to do what Uber did to the taxi industry, what Netflix did to the video rental business, what Airbnb did to hospitality,” Short said. “We want to be that disruptor to healthcare, the industry that is one-sixth of the nation’s GDP.”

Faster and cheaper

Doug Short, CEO, BeniComp

In 2016, BeniComp moved its headquarters to Tampa from Fort Wayne, Indiana, outside of Chicago, in part to be near Water Street Tampa, the 56-acre mixed-use project in downtown Tampa focused on promoting health. Easy access to Tampa International Airport also was a factor as was the ability to recruit talent to the area, Short said.

The company brought nine members of its executive team to Tampa in 2016, according to the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. It now has 17 people in Tampa, all in high-level jobs, and it’s still on the growth curve, Short said. Operations and processing remain in Indiana.

While the company provides group health insurance, Short doesn’t think of BeniComp primarily as an insurance company.

“Our primary focus is innovation. We are an innovation company and insurance is the vehicle we’re using for that innovation,” Short said. “We took the old insurance industry, stripped it down and brought technology to it so it’s faster and cheaper.”

Lifestyle changes

About 75 percent of health care claims are related to chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease, according to BeniComp, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But 80 percent of chronic diseases are preventable through lifestyle changes, such as changing eating habits, getting better sleep, watching less TV and quitting smoking, Short said.

IncentiCare is a “health solution” that focuses on that individual health status, he said. When a worker enrolls and each year after that, the worker gets a health screening and blood chemistry test that looks at five biomarkers: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood glucose, LDL cholesterol and tobacco use.

BeniComp’s proprietary software, Pulse, has a dashboard with a digital display of each biomarker and what it means if they are out of the normal range, said Alexandra Goebel, community outreach specialist.

“There’s a health coach and functional medical doctors that can see people with high level risks and will proactively reach out to them,” Goebel said. “Participants are incentivized on lifestyle factors to keep them engaged and help them improve those biomarkers directly related to chronic disease.”

For example, a pre-diabetic might get a Fitbit to help track his or her steps, Short said.

By addressing those biomarkers, “we have found we can control trend,” Short said. “Trend in America historically goes up as people get older and heavier. What we discovered is that we could control trend and actually make it go backward.”

Trend historically has been something that happened to employers, not something employers control, he said.

“We help them by providing the resources to the employees. We get employees involved and we want the right resources in employees’ hands,” Short said. “Historically insurance has been a credit card that waits on you to have an explosion and then you pull out the credit card. What we’re trying to do is get involved with your chronic lifestyles and show you how to correct those things so you are living better, living healthier, sleeping better, and chronic illness drops when that happens.”

While it sounds expensive, “it’s less expensive than allowing you to explode and then picking up the pieces,” Short said.

Incentives

Other types of insurance commonly provide rewards, such as a lower auto insurance premium for drivers who don’t speed, lower life insurance premium for non-smokers, or lower home insurance rates for homes with smoke detectors.

“But in health insurance, it’s been a national debate. They call it no pre-existing conditions. What that means is everyone gets the same coverage and it’s almost illegal to do otherwise,” Short said. “I have licenses to do individual deductibles.”

Forty-three states have signed off on BeniComp’s individual deductibles, he said.

The company has historically offered the product under the BeniComp Advantage name, which operated the same way as IncentiCare. Benton County, Arkansas received a best practice award from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, in 2007, after it used the BeniComp Advantage product, saving money on claims while lowering employees’ deductibles.

BeniComp Advantage was a product that had to be offered by offered by another third party administrator, or TPA, and was just one component of an employer’s group plan, Goebel said.

With IncentiCare, BeniComp is the TPA, eliminating the need to go through another company to offer its products, she said.

The company is in full launch mode for IncentiCare this fall, Short said.

“We’ve been around for 60 years and want to be for another 60 years,” he said. “We believe we have something that is not just a business model but it’s something for society’s betterment.”

Margie Manning

Margie started her journalism career as a radio news reporter in St. Louis, before putting down her microphone and picking up a pen to work at the St. Louis Business Journal. Unable to resist the call of warm weather and beaches, Margie took an entrepreneurial detour to run an ice cream shop in Treasure Island with her husband. Before joining the Catalyst, Margie spent 14 years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal where she wrote about business successes, failures and the exciting world of innovation and start-ups. Her writing coaches are Bonnie the Dog and Coffee the Cat, joined recently by a new edition, Jack the Cat. Margie can be contacted at margie@stpetecatalyst.com

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