- Eighty-eight percent of consumers are looking for their health payer to relay complete information about their overall financial responsibility, according to a new survey by HealthEdge, indicating a strong desire for price transparency and openness.
The survey suggests that payers may be able to improve consumer satisfaction by adopting communication strategies currently in place in other industries, like travel, banking, and retail.
The poll revealed low satisfaction within customer service and communication, less trust of health payers among the consumer base, and wasteful spending on resolving claim disputes and answering simple questions. Health payers will need to address these problems through greater patient engagement and communication channels that meet consumer needs.
“The survey provided important information related to consumer perceptions; for example, 88 percent of respondents stated that their health plan could be doing a better job of communicating their total financial responsibility, something that should be a core capability for any health plan,” Steve Krupa, CEO of HealthEdge, said in a public statement.
“Due in large part to technology limitations, health plans are missing significant opportunities that could result in increased engagement, satisfaction and loyalty,” he added. “We strongly believe health plans that embrace this opportunity will establish a competitive advantage.”
The survey, which consisted of 2,500 consumers, suggests that payers will need to improve communication and customer service that aligns with the tech-savviness of the populations they serve.
Using additional communication channels could better boost consumer satisfaction, but health payers that do not proceed with quality improvements may risk losing their customers and overall standing in the health insurance marketplace.
The survey also found that many policyholders do not believe that their insurance company can be trusted in advising them with healthcare decisions. When it comes to deciding on the best choices for their medical needs, consumers are more likely to rely on family and friends.
The trust issues may revolve around the lack of price transparency available among health plans, the survey found. For example, 40 percent of those polled stated receiving an unexpected medical bill after their insurance covered part of the service. Fifty-one percent of these consumers said that the bill was anywhere from $100 to $500.
The vast majority of those polled - 88 percent - demanded improved transparency with their total financial responsibility, including copays and deductibles.
Payers also need to be more responsive to customer needs, the survey found. As many as 27 percent of those polled said they had difficulty getting a claim issue fixed when dealing with their health payer, with 22 percent stating that it took more than five phone calls to find a solution.
As such, health payers may need to look more closely at the resources spent on resolving claim disputes and find new solutions that would simplify the process while reducing spending and increasing consumer satisfaction.
Making these changes can produce meaningful results for health plans, said Neil Kennish, Associate Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Memorial Hermann Health Solutions.
“We tried to do a lot of things to change the way we approached consumer engagement for 2016,” Kennish explained. “We tried to take an approach where we either did focus groups or did surveys of our existing customers to get a better sense of what critical benefits that they need to make sure are covered without them having to be concerned.”
“What are benefits that need to be explained in detail so that people understand the difference between copays and coinsurance rates? We try to take away some of the questions and uncertainty around health insurance so that it is an easier decision for them.”
Memorial Hermann Health Solutions also made sure that their consumers would be able to comparison shop when choosing health plans.
“As far as the shopping experience, I would absolutely say that we got great feedback from consumers about their ability to look at every plan in detail and be able to do plan comparisons. This enabled them to see multiple plans at the same time so they can compare benefits, tiers, premiums, copays, and more,” Kennish continued.
“The analogy I would use is that it’s not unlike the travel industry. We used to have travel agents that were responsible for booking people’s flights, travel plans, and vacations. As online travel sites popped up, people began to feel more and more comfortable booking their travel online,” he concluded. “That is the start of the evolution in health insurance.”