Consumer-centric insurers recruit, retain members


Health payer survival and growth is increasingly dependent upon each plan's ability to differentiate its quality of service and exceed customers' expectations. No longer can insurers sell themselves based on policies alone; they must create a positive consumer-centric experience through outreach and engagement.

Cigna has led this effort by creating full-time executive positions dedicated to improving members' experiences. Ingrid Lindberg, Cigna's member experience officer, aims to turn the insurer into a business-to-consumer company that makes the customer "the center of our universe," she says.

As customers increasingly become web-savvy, payers benefit from using social media to interact with their members while also helping them recruit or retain members. Twitter has been a particularly successful social media platform for many insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. "More Americans are using new social media channels to have conversations about their lives. We want to be part of that conversation," says John Roos, chief sales and marketing officer for BCBSNC.

A successful coaching program also helps recruit and retain members by helping create a positive customer experience and building trust with the individual. "When the customer experience is positive, people are likely to stick with a plan; and plans with a reputation for providing a positive customer experience are likely to attract new customers," says Susan Gaca, Cigna vice president, clinical operations.

Perhaps the primary obstacle facing payers' recruitment efforts is that they don't appreciate how vastly different the post-reform business-to-consumer market will be from business-as-usual. Although payers should, of course, work to reduce costs, Elizabeth Hart, principal, healthcare solutions at PegaSystems, suggests they're focusing too much on meeting the medical-loss ratio and premium caps and should instead position themselves to compete within the business-to-consumer market.

One way to gain that competitive edge is to explain how the complex health reform law affects members. Payers like Aetna are flooded with questions, particularly about whether healthcare is free under the new law, says Molly Goins-Cox, who heads up Aetna's member experience team. This and other misunderstandings provide a huge opportunity for payers to proactively reach out to their members, and the general public, to provide a clear explanation of the reform and its impact.

In our latest eBook, Health Payer Innovations: Strategies For Recruiting & Retaining New Members, FierceHealthPayer explores ways insurers are effectively able to engage existing members and recruit new ones, including tips for social media success. We also spoke with Rick Millard, senior director, healthcare at J. D. Power and Associates, who explained how JDPA's recent study findings can help health plans improve member communication, education and retention. Be sure to check out all the articles here. - Dina