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Marketing and Technology May Soon Play Bigger Roles in Health Insurance

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, July 22, 2009

Health insurers that are anxiously waiting for healthcare reform to shake out before moving forward may find themselves well behind their competitors.

It's understandable that health insurance companies don't want to invest in big-dollar projects without knowing how the industry is going to change. One example is in the area of underwriting. If healthcare reform implements an individual mandate coupled with health insurers accepting all members—regardless of pre-existing conditions—the underwriting process that has become the health insurance industry's foundation will evaporate.

Investing in that area doesn't make sense now, but Dan Maynard, president and CEO of Connecture, says health plans need to use "flexible technology solutions" to prepare for the future. Health insurers shouldn't stay transfixed on the horizon. A more pressing need for insurers is how to stay ahead despite the destruction of the employer-based health insurance market, most notably the small group market. As more Americans are bounced from employer-based health insurance, they are flooding the individual health insurance market. While insurers realize that the individual insurance market is their present and future, many are struggling with how to prevent losses.

In order to survive healthcare reform and the decimated employer-based market, Maynard suggests a combination of technology and marketing, which he says will play a much larger role in the near future. That's because the combination of an eroding employer-based health insurance market coupled with healthcare reform will force insurers to compete for members, which is commonplace in other industries.

What does the future of health insurance marketing entail? Think car and life insurance. Television shows feature ads from Geico, Progressive, and Aflac. Health insurers also may soon become a staple of television and will need marketing departments that understand what consumers want. Technology, meanwhile, will allow insurers to reach out to both members and prospective members through interactive Web sites.

The technology/marketing push will help insurers develop new products, perform lead management, quote rates to consumers, improve enrollment, and retain members. Maynard says health insurers' future is in these four areas:

  • Easy and flexible product configuration
  • Multiple avenues for targeted outreach
  • Real-time and user-friendly online enrollment
  • Using analytics to understand what attracts and retains a carrier's targeted market

In the near future, health insurers will need to create a platform that will allow insurers to promote products across various market segments. This technology will include a single location for prospective and current members to learn about product information and availability.

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