A 6-Step Guide to the Health Insurance Buying Process

When it comes to employee benefits, purchasing health insurance is arguably the most important decision you will make each year. After all, the Harvard Business Review reports that employees rate health insurance as the most desirable benefit — one that could override even salary considerations.

But buying a new health plan can be daunting. This article series walks you through the health insurance buying process from beginning to end. Over the next six weeks, come back for in-depth discussions of each of the steps covered in this overview.

The Importance of Following a Buying Process

Because of the investment a major organizational purchase like health insurance represents, it’s important to get the choice right. You need to be able to successfully compare plans, research the market, take bids from insurers and process them down to the best candidate. All of this takes time.

Without a clear process, it’s easy to make a decision without having set the groundwork to support it. If you find yourself taking vendor quotes before agreeing on what specific problem you hope those vendors will solve, then choosing the best option for your needs will prove difficult at best. You might not realize you’re headed in the wrong direction until one of your high-level stakeholders rejects your final recommendation, meaning that you have to start again from the beginning — or, worse, that you’ve enrolled in the wrong plan.

An effective buying process, on the other hand, follows clearly defined steps. During each one, you handle all the potential objections and obstacles that could come up later. Following these steps will help you make a better decision and save time in the long run by avoiding backtracking.

6 Steps for Purchasing Health Insurance

  1. Identifying the problem. How is your current health insurance approach holding your business back, and how could you potentially benefit by switching health insurance providers? During this step, you’ll also figure out your budget for the solution and refresh your education on insurance, allowing you to appreciate the fine details distinguishing one plan from the next.
  2. Exploring solutions. The health insurance market is always in flux and has likely changed significantly since you last looked for a plan. In this step, you’ll learn the best way to figure out what’s available and how to narrow down your long list of potential suppliers to the best candidates.
  3. Building requirements. After some initial research, you’ll know what options are available for group health insurance. Now, how do you figure out which one is the right plan? In step 3, you’ll narrow your list down even further by identifying the must-haves for your next provider.
  4. Selecting a supplier. During supplier selection, you’ll actively meet with providers and go over their proposals. More importantly, you’ll eliminate them one by one until you identify what you think is the best candidate.
  5. Validating your choice. After selecting a supplier, don’t rush into a purchase just yet. You still need to further corroborate your research and the claims made by the insurance company. You’ll do this by consulting with peers, getting references and reviewing analysis from third-party experts.
  6. Creating consensus. By the time you reach step six, you’ve made up your mind about the right health insurance solution. Now you need to get the rest of your organization on board. This step will cover tips on how to bring your decision to others involved in the final buying decision, including managing potential disagreements. You’ll also gain insight into how to explain the new plan to the rest of your workforce, who weren’t involved in picking the coverage.

Working through this process won’t happen overnight, and depending on the team tackling it, your approach may not be perfectly linear. But the outcome — a decision made with confidence, backed by research and delivered with consensus — will be worth it.
After going through this series, you may find that these steps improve not only your way of purchasing health insurance, but your method of navigating other major company buying decisions in the future, too.

Ready to begin the health insurance buying process? Start your journey with step one: identifying the problem.

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