Q&A with Jeff Spencer of Holmes Murphy & Associates

Jeff Spencer talks about working with clients during COVID-19 and the current healthcare landscape.

Q: Right now, what are the biggest issues your business clients are facing as they deal with the COVID-19 impact on their operations?

A: I think for all of them, it starts with trying to figure out how is COVID going to impact my healthcare spend. Early on, a lot of it was modeling of risk factors in group coverage, trying to predict impact based on the number of cases, this is the potential liability you could have. And some of that was budgetary, on the overall spend.


Q: How are you reaching out to clients and what kinds of information is in greatest demand from them?

A: We send out an update every day with various links on it. A lot of what we’re doing on the compliance side of things, things the government has done to require carriers to pay certain benefits for COVID. Some of this has gone on around COBRA, with all the layoffs, but basically, changes and updates to rules.


Q: Any surprises as you’ve watched this unfold?

A: The thing I find interesting is, we’re now 12 weeks in, tracking claims and utilization for customers, and we’ve been seeing a trough in medical claims paid and dental claims paid over that time. For self-funded customers, that’s immediate savings. For the fully insured, what remains to be seen is how carriers are going to forecast their 2021 pricing, knowing they paid less than they thought they would this year, but with the fear of another wave coming back in the fall.


Q: We’ve heard about the decline in elective surgery but haven’t heard as much about the insurance impact of that.

A: We expect as this moves forward that people will be going back for their regular visits. But it’s not like you can flip a switch and get back to even; there’s only so much capacity that doctors and hospitals have to do elective procedures. It’s been fascinating trying to figure the underlying components of the healthcare spend, and what it might look like 12 months from now.


Q: Missouri and Kansas just hit new lows for reported cases over a four-day period, the lowest since this all took off in mid-March. What do you make of that?

A: I guess indicates things we’ve all been asked to do around cleanliness, social distancing—all that stuff, it’s nice to see the sacrifices everyone is making pay some dividends. I hope that’s sustainable. Four days may not be enough to call it a trend, but at this point, anything like that is a silver lining, and that’s a good thing.


Q: What does it mean to you, on personal as well as professional levels, to be able to help clients navigate new demands for insurance coverage and benefit planning in an environment this challenging?

A: The most rewarding part of pandemic is to see how our team has continued to work together to support and educate our clients about the changing landscape of health care that we are all navigating. Our clients have always relied on us to help them manage this part of their business and balance sheet, and we are delivering for them when the chips are down, which will help strengthen the business and personal relationships that we have developed with our customers over the last 17 years.