Health Care

Form may help with health plan decisions

Some Wichita employers will use a new approach when they go shopping for health benefits later this year, one that they hope will help them make smarter decisions about what they're buying.

They will be using all or parts of a common request for information or proposal — RFI/RFP — that is designed to help them get more value for their benefit dollars.

The RFI/RFP template was developed by members of the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care. The nine-page document asks vendors for information on a number of measures, including chronic disease management, patient engagement, work site programs and claims timeliness.

That data can help employers decide where they'd get the most for their money at their particular business, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.

The template has been in the works for months, said Ron Whiting, the coalition's executive director.

Discussions "always came back to the employers needing to have clear expectations of what they wanted out of their benefits" and health plans saying that "the employers weren't asking for the right things" to get it.

Coalition members realized that a common RFI/RFP template would help them get information, he said.

Karen Vines, director of business development for IMA of Kansas, said, "I think it's going to be very interesting to see how the health plans respond."

She said that IMA has been encouraging its clients to look beyond price tags when making decisions and that data from the RFI/RFP template can help them figure out where they want to be five years down the road.

But, she said, "It's not going to be appropriate for every single group" to use the entire template.

Susan Smith, senior vice president at GLMV Architecture, said that in the past her company has gotten "prepackaged" plans from vendors. The template allows employers "to be more proactively assertive" about "what all do we want insurance to do for us."

She said she plans to use the template to "guide my thought process in what I'm going to ask for, and I'm going to use it to help me sculpt the parameters of our plan."

Using a common RFI can give smaller employers a bigger voice with health plans, Whiting said.

Mathew Mount, controller at Wescon Products, said, "As somebody who's not a major employer in town but not a small employer, it gives us the ability to say, 'Hey, everybody else is asking for this stuff, too. It's not just us.' "

He said Wescon had not asked for much of the information in previous years "because we didn't know about it. This has been a big educational deal for us."

Whiting said some employers, especially larger ones, probably are used to asking health plans for the data. "There's a lot in here about helping engage the patient and their care from a variety of angles," he said.

The template is for use by any Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care member. Whiting said he would be willing to talk to nonmembers about its use. The coalition's website is; contact information can be found there.