From the December-January 2007 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Healthcare in a Click

Should an employee select a healthcare insurance provider the same way he or she might select a potential mate on an Internet dating site? Asparity Decision Solutions Inc., a provider of benefit and risk management solutions, doesn't see why not.

Asparity's online benefit management tools are designed around the idea that the system works more efficiently and costs can be controlled better when employees choose plans based on the tradeoffs--cost versus service--they are willing to make. The process begins with an employee answering a series of questions about what is really important to them in a healthcare insurance plan and what tradeoffs they are willing to make to satisfy those priorities. For instance, would they prefer a health plan with a 92% consumer satisfaction rating and a $200 monthly payment or one with a rating of 68% and a $40 payment? The tool's engine then ranks the available plans--showing the employee estimates of each plan's total cost to the employer, as well as out-of-pocket employee expenses. Like online dating, it selects your matches and then guides the employee through the order of plans that best meet his or her needs. The Asparity system can also estimate whether an employee will save money using a health savings account.

But Asparity goes a step further to help the company as well. After first stripping out all personal identity information, the technology delivers data back to the employer in the form of summaries of employee choices. "Our data doesn't replace historical claims utilization data, but it certainly supplements it, by explaining to the employer why employees choose the plans they do and how the plans are meeting their goals," says Colleen Murphy, Asparity president and CEO. Based on comparisons drawn from many companies, Asparity estimates that employees who made their benefit choices using the online tool saved themselves on average 2% and saved their employers 5%, when compared to the choices made by employees without the tool. Those employees are also three to five times more likely to enroll in a high deductible plan with an HSA than those who don't use the tool. In addition, the data that companies receive can help them find weak spots in their offerings and determine how price sensitive their employee population is. CitiStreet, the benefits outsourcing and advisory company owned by Citigroup and State Street Corp., has offered the Asparity solution to its customers for several years. Jim Murphy, CitiStreet's president, says that providing data-mining services for healthcare plans is almost a given now among his customer base, and Asparity data is a valuable part of CitiStreet's review process with clients. "They have excellent information around the behavior employees adopt once they use the tool," he says.

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