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Bringing beneficiaries on board: Steps and key questions for consumer engagement

“How do we engage the public? How do we encourage people to enroll?” Those questions, posed by Avalere Health senior adviser John Kaelin, resonated throughout the events of AHIP’s Institute 2013 on Wednesday, particularly the Exchange Conference, which assessed the challenges, opportunities and change on the horizon with the advent of public health insurance exchanges that will expand health insurance coverage to millions of new beneficiaries. There aren’t any easy answers. Experts said it will require a multifaceted strategy involving community groups; government outreach; marketing through print, media and social channels; agents; brokers; tax preparers; and much more. Kaelin broke down the steps health plans must take into what he called a “life-cycle journey” of consumer engagement.

  1. Outreach and education — Health plans must be involved with helping consumers understand the law and a health care landscape many know little about, Kaelin said. Steps include supporting government and community outreach efforts.
  2. Plan selection — Consumers need to get signed up with the right plan. Channels for facilitating that process include working with benefits brokers, tax preparation firms, consumer groups and more.
  3. Premium education — Consumers must understand their premium and how to pay it.
  4. Benefits education — Helping enrollees understand their coverage is particularly key to consumer satisfaction, Kaelin notes. Health plans must educate new members about how and where they can use their coverage.
  5. Consumer retention — This is partly driven by the efficacy of benefits education. To retain beneficiaries, health plans must ensure consumers feel their health coverage has delivered value.

Kaelin also posed four guiding questions for health plans to consider:

  1. Who is my target market?
  2. Where should I invest my resources?
  3. How do I engage with potential enrollees?
  4. How do I build customer loyalty?

The answers will vary by demographic group and be informed by the state regulatory landscape, but if the discussion among health plan leaders Wednesday is any indication, insurers are clearly deeply engaged in trying to find them.