- Commercial health plan customer satisfaction rates remained stable from 2017 to 2018, but payers still have a number of opportunities to improve their customer service and beneficiary education, according to a new JD Power consumer survey.
The JD Power 2018 Commercial Member Health Plan Study found that consumer satisfaction with the health plan industry still lags behind other industries in terms of convenience, helpfulness, and the availability of user-friendly purchasing experiences.
“Commercial health plans have been battling a perfect storm of rising costs, payment reforms and consolidation, which has distracted them from focusing on improving overall customer satisfaction in the sector compared with other industries,” said Valerie Monet, Senior Director of US Insurance Operations at JD Power.
Only 47 percent of health plan members fully understood how their plan works. Respondents said that they have significant trouble understanding certain administrative processes, such as when pre-approvals are needed for medical services or treatments.
“Amidst the consolidation activity this past year, the one area where top-performing health plans can really set themselves apart in the eyes of their members is to help them better understand how to navigate the healthcare system, including how their plan works and cost-effective access points for care,” observed Monet. “The key is effective communication.”
Health plans that were able to build brand trust through a variety of engagement channels experienced upticks in customer satisfaction, the survey found.
Customer satisfaction scores and health plan trust increased when plans offered tools such as cost estimators and cost tracking interfaces to create informed shopping experiences.
BlueCross BlueShield health plans earned the highest consumer satisfaction rates in 10 out of the 22 regions where commercial health plans were offered. Kaiser Foundation health plans earned the top satisfaction marks in six regions. The remaining six regions had a mix of top performing health plans from large payers such as Cigna, HealthParnters, and UMPC Health Plan.
Health plan members also said that they would prefer quicker access to healthcare services through retail clinics and urgent care centers.
“With a greater number of retail clinics and urgent care locations across America, consumers have more options than ever before, yet satisfaction with choice of clinics and urgent care locations covered by the plan is down year over year,” the survey authors said. “This suggests health plans have an untapped opportunity to better leverage these access points for care.”
Addressing health plan customer satisfaction may require specialized strategies and technologies to meet the consumer demands identified in the survey.
Marketing strategies for health plans include capturing beneficiary demographics to create “buyer personas” so payers can promote specific health plan options based on member characteristics.
Payers may also reduce communication concerns by expanding traditional communication channels such as phone and email while implementing innovative solutions such as online and digital chat features.
Emerging technology platforms can improve how consumers interact with health plans such as automation that helps with consumer navigation, easy to use enrollment interfaces, and self-service tools that allow members to manage their health plan benefits.
Adding pricing transparency tools to shopping experiences could also build stronger consumer trust with a payer’s brand if shoppers understand expected health plan costs.
Health plans that provide high-quality customer satisfaction experiences could separate themselves from the competition as an industry leader, and even drive improvements in health plan performance measures related to consumer experiences.