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Michael Mathias

It's open season: how healthcare companies can boost their membership

By Michael Mathias

Open enrollment season is upon us, and it's a time when millions of Americans will make decisions about their health insurance plans. For healthcare insurance providers, ACA and Medicare represent the best opportunities to grow their ranks.

Just consider the time frames in which healthcare insurance marketers have to attract new members to their brands as well as stem member attrition. Medicare open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7, while open enrollment for 2018 marketplace health insurance runs from November 1 to December 15. What other sector has such an abbreviated period for customer acquisition?
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What's more, competition for members is fierce. Traditional differentiators -- the provider networks, first-call resolution, omnichannel experiences -- are no longer unique. Now that every provider has adopted them as table stakes, these investments are the basic cost of entry. For the majority of consumers, plan costs are the biggest driving factor in their decision-making, particularly in the ACA and Medicare markets.

Meanwhile, medical costs continue to rise. In 2018, costs jumped 5.3 percent and by 2026, healthcare will account for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. economy! Despite these escalating costs, reimbursements are on the decline. According to the Journal of Emergency Services, in most states, reimbursement can't keep pace with increasing costs of care, which constrains costs and limits the resources providers have to invest in enhancing the member experience and marketing to new customers.

This time of year, we see insurance companies making significant investments in brand advertising and digital marketing, as well as omnichannel customer engagement. Last year, TV advertising for ACA plans jumped 51%, due to the shorter open enrollment period (this year it's even shorter).

But all the advertising and omnichannel strategies aren't moving the needle for many providers. Why? Let's start with member attrition. Marketers put a lot of effort into making unsatisfied members happy. They engage in targeting them with help messages and sending them mailings, but this isn't particularly helpful. In fact, it can even backfire as consumers wonder why the health insurance provider spends so much on advertising rather than lowering their rates.

Worse, consumers are constantly bombarded with messages from insurance companies, all making similar claims about protection and peace of mind. To break through the clutter, healthcare marketers need to differentiate their message from the rest of the pack, but how?
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