"It's one thing to have a marketing site, it's another thing to be targeting different types of consumers and providing different targeted campaigns around your quoting and your lead gen activities," says Maynard. "Health plans are a long ways away from that kind of technology-supported targeted marketing on the Web or otherwise."
Of course, people don't consume information the same way. This means health insurers will need to create outreach across multiple avenues. While young adults appreciate Web communication through fast processes, senior populations may need additional considerations, including a user interface that is compatible with screen-reading applications and flexibility in font size and site view. Seniors could also need additional support through phone calls or even face-to-face communication.
Fewer people with employer-based insurance means health insurers will need to invest in direct-to-consumer offerings as well as interactive Web sites, call centers, and maybe even retail stores.
Having fewer underwriting possibilities, insurers will benefit by creating Web sites that allow for faster enrollment processes. Maynard says insurers also will need to create real-time underwriting processes that allow customers to enroll immediately while allowing the health plans to use the information to design wellness programs tailored to the individual.
Finally, Maynard advises health insurers to use analytics. This may seem like common sense, but most health insurers don't use analytics and those that do are not doing enough. Maynard says insurers need to make sure their Web sites are reaching all people. Health insurance companies can check this by measuring the site's performance, collecting customer experience data, analyzing the most impactful pages, and determining which marketing campaigns are most effective. With this information, insurers can find out where they are losing out on potential sales, he says.
Implementing these changes will be difficult (and costly) for insurers. The health insurance industry is "very immature" when it comes to such targeted marketing capabilities—unlike the financial sector and other insurances, says Maynard. But those who are focusing their energies solely on what's happening (or not happening) in Washington are making a mistake. The loss of the employer-based system is a potentially devastating problem that is now before health insurers—and that momentum is not coming from Pennsylvania Avenue. It's coming from Main Street.