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Health Insurance Is No Longer a One-Time Transaction

The time when insurers could enroll a member and be done with engagement is as old as ATMs.

Jeff Surges, President & CEO Connecture, speaking at recent AHIP session.Jeff Surges, President & CEO Connecture, speaking at recent AHIP session.

The time when insurers could enroll a member and be done with engagement is as old as ATMs. That was a key takeaway from a session at last month's AHIP Institute titled "Consumerism and Disruption."

As banks have upped their service through virtual banking assistants, and apps such as Zocdoc allow consumers to scan their insurance cards and search for a physician, and as Amazon disrupts whatever it touches, so too must health insurers engage their members in a retail-driven experience.

"You have to think of the experience of shopping and enrolling as a long-term transaction," said Jeff Surges, President and CEO of Connecture, which works with payers, brokers and government agencies to create shopping, enrollment and engagement products.

Decision-support technology is essential to reaching this level of consumerism, as is data.

"Use data and analytics to know who your member is," Surges said.

Increasingly, insurers are becoming more comfortable with different elements of consumerism, but the industry takes a long time to turn the ship around on old ways of doing business. According to Surges, it must adapt more quickly if it is to match the nimbleness of a market or a population that is used to convenience, seamlessness and service.

Consumers are willing to embrace greater levels of personalization even if this means sharing personal information.

In a recent Connecture survey of 2,000 consumers that measured how people shop for insurance, the results show that close to half, 48 percent, are willing to provide their personal information. They would be willing to provide their doctors' names, prescription drugs and preferred plan options to find their best-fit plan.

That same percentage want to see a list of potential health events and what it would cost them, and 46 percent wouldn't mind answering lifestyle and budget questions to see recommended plans.

"Personalization means understanding which channels are more effective in reaching consumers," Surges said. "The more personalized the marketing method, the more opportunity to convert and enroll."

To be effective, consumers must remain the focus. This seems like a simple concept, but all too often, personalization is implemented for the sake of the company rather than having the consumer in mind, according to co-presenter Jerry Eichhorst, Executive Director of the Financial Advice & Solutions Group (FASG) Digital Products for USAA.

USAA leverages Connecture's technology to provide members and their families with access to medical and ancillary insurance products.

Still, insurers have their work cut out for them in closing the loop between how consumers shop for plans and what carriers can do to reach them where they want to be met.

Connecture's consumer survey found a 30 percent growth in the number of people shopping online for health coverage. These people are four times more likely to find the best-fit plan, Surges noted.

But it also found that even though 87 percent prefer to shop and enroll in coverage on their own, only 20 percent actually complete the process by themselves.

They need engagement.

Here is an opportunity for insurers to fill that gap by better understanding the different consumer mindsets.

Consumers are complex, but if categorized, they fall generally within one of four categories of increasing willingness to do what it takes to find a plan. They are the resistors, browsers, researchers and maximizers. Browsers are the largest group, representing 42 percent of the population. They will spend a maximum of 30 minutes looking around.

The resistors represent 18 percent of the population and typically prefer to shop for healthcare offline.

"Where the game can be played and won for carriers, particularly with a digital strategy," Surges said, "is with the browsers and resistors."

Connecture is finalizing plans to launch its latest industry council made up of select carriers and broker partners. This particular group will focus on sharing and implementing ideas regarding consumerism and next-gen tech in the health insurance sector.

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