Guest Post by Renée Keats
This month, an estimated 47 million-plus previously uninsured, non-elderly Americans may elect health insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). How will health systems, providers and marketers stay ahead of the curve and address the US health care evolution? At its core, here are five ways that our healthcare delivery system is changing:
Increased access to affordable healthcare: For the first time, health insurance will be a public commodity.
Essential Health Benefits: All plans that are offered in the health insurance exchange or “marketplace” are required to meet 10 “Essential Health Benefits” (EHB) including preventive and wellness services, maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs among others.
Emphasis on Prevention: Premium costs will shift from acute care (treating the severely ill) to preventive care (screenings, tobacco cessation, routine cholesterol checks, etc.)
Rules governing health insurance companies will be clarified and standardized: Consumers will know their rights and have the ability to appeal decisions based on these agreed upon rules.
Changing relationships with providers: We may see the end of the traditional patient-physician relationship; a casualty of greater efficiency and demand for healthcare by the insured population.
The Consumer Driven Marketplace
Consumers can now decide what the best medical (and financial) plan is for their families. The PPACA requires all consumers to purchase health insurance coverage. It also gives consumers more control over which plans they choose. Customers now have some incentive to shop around and, assuming that an employer covered them in the past, they may determine whether or not to remain on that employer’s plan.
The design of the marketplace system allows millions of healthcare customers to comparison shop for a provider based on the type of medical services they need, prices of care, as well as the quality of care options.
Health insurance marketing may become almost entirely consumer driven. Unlike in the past, where employers selected employees’ health plans, with the advent of the marketplace system, insurance companies will be forced to compete head-to-head with one another for customers.
Healthcare marketers need to focus on both retaining current customers and securing new customers, and to do this, strategy must be increasingly consumer-centric.
One way to redirect their strategy and draw new customers to their health plans is through increased connectivity through Internet marketing and social media. For customers who are new to health insurance coverage, easy-to-understand online resources may help them decide what type of plan is best for their families.
Currently, about 80 percent of consumers (or 93 million Americans) access online references to address their health concerns. Of course, as the number of insured Americans grows, so will the demand for reputable online health information.
Having a fully interactive site (also accessible/functional on mobile devices) with creative content that broadcasts the health plan’s brand and reputation, as the leader amongst its peers will help to ensure that not only will the plan attract new customers but it will also retain its current ones.
Sources and additional reading: The Affordable Care Act’s Impact on Healthcare Marketing, A Doctor’s 9 Predictions About the ‘Obamacare’ Era, and Playing the Numbers: 20 Reasons You Need a First Class Internet Plan.
Contributed by Renée Keats
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