Regardless of whether credit union leaders have supported or criticized the Affordable Care Act, there is one thing none of us can deny: the legislation will create a huge market for health care insurance.
Why should credit unions care?
Because Gen Y, Hispanics and other underserved markets, and small businesses will be among the tens of millions shopping for health care plans as a result of the coverage mandate.
These are exactly the market segments credit unions are targeting for their own growth. And these consumers will need trusted partners to help them make well-educated decisions on their health care in a time of great change and confusion.
Some estimates predict as many as 30 million previously uninsured Americans will begin shopping for coverage as they become educated on the finer points of the Affordable Care Act, which is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. An additional 80 million currently insured are predicted to begin searching for a new provider when the act goes into effect.
These estimates speak only to consumers. Businesses, as well, are predicted to be looking for alternatives come January. As reported on CUTimes.com, 52% of employers have begun to institute changes in their benefits. Think of the long-term potential of offering affordable health care options to your employer groups and small-business members. Health Savings Accounts, as one example, could be just the beginning of a long relationship with businesses and their employees.
As the most highly trusted, member-centric organizations in financial services, credit unions are uniquely positioned to be trusted advisors in this discussion. Those in the market for health insurance will be facing complex decisions – many for the first time.
Much like first-time auto or home buyers need the personal attention and guidance offered by their local credit union, first-time health care insurance buyers will be looking for patient, high-touch help – the kind of help that translates into long-term loyalty as first-timers become life-timers.
Education of both consumers and business leaders on the Affordable Care Act and what it means for them will be critically important. Credit unions, because of their deep roots in local communities, are in an ideal position to lead this effort.
What does my credit union know about health care plans? How are we going to educate our communities and our members as to the best options for them without the proper training or expert staff? Can we add one more product or service to our already-full plates?
As with any new initiative that has the potential to open new markets for your credit union, collaboration is key. Finding expert partners with similar business models and philosophies is critical to connecting members and prospective members with the information and resources they need to navigate the new world of mandated health care.
Partnerships like the one our league, alongside the Nebraska Credit Union League, has developed with CoOportunity Health, will enable credit unions in our two states to offer affordable, high-quality insurance options for individuals, families and businesses starting this fall. Like credit unions, CoOportunity Health is a not-for-profit organization managed by and for its members.
Although the partnership is a first of its kind, we are confident in its success and positive impact because all three entities live the cooperative model and have a common goal, which is ultimately creating the best possible options for consumers and businesses through increased competition in the health care marketplace.
We know financial well-being is directly linked to the overall health of the families we serve. You have a tremendous opportunity to provide much-needed access to vital information and new health insurance options at a time of great confusion.
Partnering with like-minded organizations will not only provide immediate entry into a large and important market; it will enable our credit union movement to be seen as leaders and trusted advisors at a time when millions of consumers are looking for guidance.
Patrick S. Jury is president/CEO of the Iowa Credit Union League.