Sunday, April 21, 2013

Will healthcare consumers understand how to buy health insurance from an exchange that includes you?

I have been reading and seeing a lot of information lately that consumers will be clueless when entering a Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) to purchase health insurance for the first time. Health insurance companies and governments are gearing up to spend millions in educating the healthcare consumer regarding purchasing health insurance in a HIX.

You have a very big stake for participating in this marketing game.

But wait this gets even better. These first time buyers are going to include those who are employed, whose companies decided to throw in the towel on a cost basis in favor of a defined contribution benefit, and send their employees on their merry way to buy their own coverage. That is if they don't drop their hours below the threshold for mandated employer insurance first. Or, they could opt to pay a penalty for not providing healthcare coverage which in some cases will be cheaper than providing coverage.

So where is the marketing opportunity for you because not everyone will be eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage?

I case you are thinking that all you have to do Mr. and Ms. Hospital Executive is sit back, and deal with the new demand for care, how can you be sure the newly insured healthcare consumer will chose plans that include you from the HIX? Right now you can't. Unless of course you start an educational marketing program that educates about insurance and the value you bring to the healthcare consumer by you being included in their choice of plans networks.

This is more than negotiating with every plan available, and being included. In the brave new world of healthcare reform moving an industry to a consumer directed system, purchasing health insurance is going to become very quickly a big deal. And in some pilots its already been learned that when there is a 10 percent difference in premium, the healthcare consumer exhibits consumerist shopping behavior, and chooses the lower cost health plan with the narrower restrictive provider panel limiting their choice, Wall Street Journal article on Friday, March 1, 2013, "Another Big Step in Reshaping Healthcare".

If I were running a hospital, you can bet my marketing department would be figuring out the educational campaign to target those healthcare consumers buying health insurance in the HIX, how to buy insurance that included me, and affiliated physicians. And that doesn't mean a list of insurance plans or doctors.

You have a real opportunity with an effective healthcare marketing campaign to influence choice at this point in time which will have a direct bottom line impact. Wait, and it will be too late to influence the newly empowered healthcare consumer plan and network choice.

Opportunity like this knocks only once. I hear someone at that the door, better answer.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed.

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