The need for data integration and APIs in today’s benefits underwriting landscape

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By: Jim Foley, Vice President, Product and Underwriting, Wellfleet Workplace

Held back by legacy technology

Shopping in the 21st century is easy. Consumers don’t need to put in much effort when it comes to buying goods and services. Why? Technology makes it easy. From almost all our online and app-based engagements, like Amazon or Expedia, a few clicks and poof we get what we need, quickly. Further, these same services provide us with personalized offerings – like NetFlix’s top 10 and YouTube’s recommendations. We expect better, faster and accurate technology. And for the most part, we get it. So why is the insurance industry so slow to follow suit?

The main reason – legacy technology and layers of hierarchal complexity. This includes technology that was built more than 30 years ago, coupled with patchworked systems that makes for inefficient capabilities. Companies add patches to their systems in an attempt to get the job done. Even though they are costly and inefficient, the thought is, that it’s less expensive to keep the train rolling than to replace with more efficient equipment.

This is where carriers need to see the bigger picture and identify how they can make their systems better for the long run. Especially when it comes to underwriting their plans. How can they do this?

Embracing technology

Carriers that want to improve their quoting and plan building need to break away from the roadblocks created by legacy systems, and embrace advancements like API capabilities. Why? The brokers and clients that struggle with errors resulting from data issues for plan builds, enrollment and claims with the end consumer expecting better experiences, like with a carrier’s portal.  

Technology that leverages data integration and APIs greatly improve process. It creates and stores clean data across systems and allows IT systems to transmit information in near real-time. Redefining how carriers, brokers, employers, and customers interact.

For instance, today, when a case is quoted, there are often multiple versions created.  Ultimately, poor version control ends up with incorrect product plans being sold, which leads to major downstream implications – including lost clients.

With data integration, as plans and rates are being built on the underwriting side, there is a real-time system of version control. No manual saves, no discrepancies, just the ability to provide exactly what was agreed on. This is where data integration powers retrieval of the approved quote and moves it to case build, portals and all the way to claims set up for the group! No rekeying or manual entry. Now the system is ready for the enrollment.

Now, where the APIs come into play is when the case is sold. In the current state, most often a technology vendor is sent a spreadsheet or PDF proposal that has a rate chart and case details, including dates, rates and plan codes, that they need to key in manually into their system. This is setting the stage for a disaster, often leading to countless errors and time lost fixing.

With APIs, once the case is sold, that same plan information is passed via the API to the partners system, quickly built to their platforms specifications, and ready for enrollment. It’s literally plug and play. This process helps to eliminate time spent painstakingly investigating and solving for errors. The automation can quickly detect and proactively seek out correction for any errors before they go down stream. Further, this connection allows for easy updates, and porting of coverage.

Setting up systems for the future

As companies evaluate existing technologies, they’re more than likely running into limitations around capabilities and integration, which is why a strong focus on systems architecture is so critical. As noted, carriers that can’t effectively exchange data with internal and external systems face long turnaround times and open themselves up to costly errors.

Developing a system with an open architecture makes it easy to work with any partner now, or in the future. This is because it creates the ability to add, change or replace connections, software and hardware with ease.

What facilitates this, is the use of APIs. It creates a system that is highly scalable and eliminates the need to maintain multiple versions of code, while enabling secure transactions in real-time.

APIs help to provide an efficient exchange of information. And a personalized experience for the end user. By developing and securely exposing APIs to partners, carriers are enhancing the experience and improving user experience.

I know this, because this is precisely what we’re doing at Wellfleet Workplace. We built our Lighthouse administration platform to be a single source of truth. No patchwork, just one system that handles everything from quote to claims and offers secure API connections to power partners plans. We’ve built a better experience.

It’s time to start building your API strategy

The writing in is on the wall. Brokers, HR departments and employees want a better user experience. If they can’t quickly and accurately get the information they need, they won’t be happy, and they’ll go to someone else who can provide it.

Remember your prized Blackberry? You probably have an iPhone now, right? Then you get it. API technology needs to be adopted by carriers and benefits administration systems alike. These connections are what fuel-efficient real-time data exchange, greatly reduces human intervention and improves the user experience – for all users, at each point of engagement.

Some may like their current patch work of newer technologies and scores of workers manually entering and validating data. They may look at it like the Blackberry – functional and suiting today’s needs. Sure, it works, but it has its limits compared to the iPhone. It’s time to upgrade – get rid of the Blackberry and switch to better technology.

Of course, APIs take time to build. Why? They need sound strategy to ensure they meet the businesses current and future needs. They need executive buy-in and IT support. But it can be done in an agile environment, and done well. That’s what we’ve done at Wellfleet. And we’re continuing to improve the process.

Visit WellfleetWorkplace.com to learn more.

Wellfleet is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance and administrative operations of Wellfleet Insurance Company, Wellfleet New York Insurance Company, and Wellfleet Group, LLC. All insurance products are administered or managed by Wellfleet Group, LLC. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and may differ among companies.

©2022 Wellfleet Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved

About the Author

Jim Foley is the VP of Product & UW, & responsible for the strategic direction & management of WF WP’s UW, Product Innovation, Product Implementation & Marketing teams. With more than 20 years of industry experience, he has held significant UW, Product & Market Development leadership roles with several large national carriers, including Unum, Voya & Humana. Prior to entering the insurance industry, Jim was a military intelligence officer in the Army. He holds an undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University & an MBA in Marketing from Indiana University.

Wellfleet Workplace

Wellfleet is a Berkshire Hathaway company focused on protecting people against risk throughout every stage of life — from birth to grade school, college, the workplace and beyond. Wellfleet’s Workplace division delivers customizable, digitally-forward benefit solutions through a suite of employee benefit products, including: Accident, Critical Illness, Hospital Indemnity and Short-Term Disability Income insurance. For more information, visit www.wellfleetinsurance.com

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Wellfleet is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance and administrative operations of Wellfleet Insurance Company, Wellfleet New York Insurance Company, and Wellfleet Group, LLC. All insurance products are administered or managed by Wellfleet Group, LLC. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and may differ among companies.