A nationwide search for software that could help his company during health insurance enrollment season led Dave Keller to a company based in Akron, just minutes from where he grew up.
Keller, chief sales and marketing officer for IHC Specialty Benefits in Minneapolis, said the hometown tie (he grew up in Mogadore) helped finalize IHC's decision to partner with Akron-based My1HR to use its software that helps insurance brokers connect to the federally facilitated insurance marketplaces.
IHC, an insurance organization that underwrites, administers and distributes various insurance plans, announced the partnership last month after looking for a web-based entity to ease and improve the process for the producers throughout the country it contracts with to sell its insurance plans.
Scott Klonowski, CEO of My1HR, said the company developed the INSXCloud software in 2013. Essentially, it allows insurance producers, brokers and agents to quote and enroll clients into healthcare.gov and track their applications, allowing for efficiency and better customer service.
The company name, My1HR, is a relic from its initial objective to create software for human resources. Upon hearing about the challenges that insurance companies faced in establishing connectivity with healthcare.gov, Klonowski shifted gears, began developing enrollment software and "really never turned back," he said.
"We wanted a repeatable product that we could make inexpensive that we could get into lots and lots of insurance brokers' hands," said Klonowski, who has spent more than 20 years in the health insurance industry. "There's a lot of brokers that sat on the sidelines during the initial open enrollment of healthcare.gov because it was far, far too difficult for them to navigate."
Web-based entity (WBE) enrollment sites are certified by the CMS and help connect consumers and insurance brokers to the marketplaces. Klonowski said INSXCloud was one of the first successfully implemented WBEs. Competition has grown since, with more than 50 web brokers registered with CMS.
IHC sells ancillary plans, such as dental, telemedicine and gap plans, which help consumers pay their deductibles. It contracts with roughly 8,000 people who sell those plans. And now, those who use INSXCloud to access the marketplace will also see IHC's plans and options. Before, those selling IHC plans would have to go to a separate site to get information and enroll consumers.
"This is kind of allowing you to have one-stop shopping for consumers that have a need," Keller said. "It still doesn't prevent them from going somewhere else for their dental plan, but it certainly gives them an option to see what the dental plans look like right there on the INSXCloud site, and make it easier for the agent and for the consumer."
Jason Farro, CEO of Independence-based Lighthouse Insurance Group, has been using INSXCloud for the past several years. He said he initially began looking at INSXCloud because it was a local company, but upon looking closely, he found it to be more cost effective and simpler to use.
It pulls information out of the marketplace in real time, with accurate quotes for different insurance carriers, allowing agents to relay that information to the customer, Farro said. It also allows Lighthouse to track the information it submits so agents can follow up with customers and better manage their accounts.
The gained efficiency means that agents can get the customer a quote more quickly, allowing for more sales.
"I would say that by using this technology, it's probably giving us another 20% to 35% increase in sales," Farro said.
Klonowski estimated that there are about 2,500 brokers who use the software but expects that number to reach as get as high as 4,000 by Nov. 1.
Klonowski said he works with some larger agencies with regional plans, but the smaller mom-and-pop brokers with a handful of employees have become "our bread and butter."
In its first enrollment season, INSXCloud assisted in enrolling about 30,000 consumers for the 2014 coverage year. It reached 95,000 consumers the following year and jumped to 170,000 for the 2016 effective year.
Thanks in part to the additional market reached through the partnership with IHC, Klonowski said that reaching 300,000 consumers applying for coverage for 2017 is an achievable target.
"The complexity of health insurance is such that it still needs to be explained, it still needs to be sold and that's something that I think has been proven out," he said. "And that's I think also why there's been such a high level of cooperation from healthcare.gov in the last two years to really extend their broker relationships, build their broker relationships. They see the value, too."
"My1HR bridges insurance brokers, federal marketplaces" originally appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business.