Consumer grasp critical to Open Enrollment 2015

On Saturday, healthcare.gov and numerous healthcare insurance exchanges and insurers opened their doors for business to individuals for 2015. As multi-channel direct marketers, we are in the throes of it as well.

For both consumers and insurers, it’s a wild and crazy ride. Consumers are faced with a confusing series of decisions: shop, compare, stay or switch. We’ve long known that many consumers are unsure of basic insurance concepts, and how to interpret most of the technical jargon.

Health Affairs started investigating consumer comprehension rates and here’s what they found:

  • 60% of the target market for the health insurance exchanges indicated that they did not understand key concepts related to health insurance.
  • Among the population targeted by the exchanges, only 39.9% of respondents understood all 9 key concepts:
    • (Premiums, Deductibles, Copayments, Coinsurance, Maximum annual out-of-pocket spending limits, Provider networks, Covered services, Annual limits on services and Noncovered or excluded services)
  • Only 23.6% of uninsured respondents, and less than a third of those ages 18-30, were confident that they understood these concepts. The HRMS results are based on a nationally representative, probability-based Internet panel that is fielded each quarter.

For those of us tasked with communicating with consumers at all points of contact—whether it’s website, direct mail, email, collateral, customer service, inbound and outbound teleservices, in-person at a seminar, agent/broker communications–it’s critical to remember that these terms can be as mystifying as a foreign language. Logic then extends to the fact that a confused consumer is likely to be an uncertain buyer, needing a degree of support.

Whom to trust? Just as an exercise today, we entered some information on an online website that is a clearinghouse for individual healthcare plans. The phone calls started coming in one minute after entering our phone number. Each caller (outbound customer service reps for various web-driven portals) promised the most affordable options for healthcare plans for a family of four. All three we spoke to loaded up the call with acronyms (OEP, deductibles, co-pays, premiums) and assumed a high degree of insurance proficiency.

Clearly, touchpoint strategy and execution is a make-or-break for consumers trying to sort their way through this maze. Especially since the burden of choice sits squarely on their shoulders. In the need to collect meaningful data during touchpoints, it’s possible to also look at the contact in a different way.

Some critical issues to get at, we believe:

  • What matters most to this consumer? Is it the monthly cost of the plan? Managing a disease? The other costs, besides the premiums, i.e. deductibles? Other?
  • How much does this consumer understand already? Is this a savvy buyer, or someone who needs to be carefully educated and supported?
  • How does this consumer prefer to absorb information? What channel makes the most sense?
  • Does this consumer really understand what we are saying during this touchpoint?
  • What is a realistic expectation for this consumer with a plan?
  • How can we reward this consumer with continuing education and deepened engagement?

Only a few days in…more interesting observations to come.

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Direct Choice Inc. is a full-service direct marketing agency that has worked with national and regional brands in a wide variety of vertical markets. In addition to this blog, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

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