Christy Garrett: Marketing The Affordable Care Act

by Christy Garrett ([email protected]) 210 views 

Editor’s note: Christy Garrett is director of marketing and business development for QualChoice Health Insurance. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

The Affordable Care Act has resulted in a significant number of changes in health care and health insurance across the nation and in Arkansas. This has led us to reevaluate our strategic approach to the marketing of health insurance products and services.

One of the most positive changes we have seen is that the law has made insurance more of a priority for all consumers. Health insurance is no longer a choice – it is the law. This has resulted in an increase in potential consumers, and increased awareness of the need for health insurance.

Health insurance is becoming more of a lifestyle product than simply a medical product. Our goal is to become our member’s partner in health – to not just communicate with our customers about their claims or providers, but to engage them in conversations about their health and their continuum of care. We want to help them understand how to stay healthier and improve their lives beyond their medical claims.

From a marketing perspective, this is a revolutionary change in the way we sell and market our products. The number of consumers who are shopping for and purchasing health insurance on their own has grown significantly. We have seen an increase in traffic to our online product portal for individual plans. And with government regulation of open enrollment periods, our business is now much more seasonally driven.

That touches on what is probably the biggest challenge of the ACA – the continually evolving regulations. We have to constantly stay up-to-date on new rules and how they impact our product design and benefits. We have to engage our customers in conversations about what the changing rules mean for them.

One of the challenges all insurance companies face is that as we are communicating directly to more consumers and there can be a language/understanding barrier. The health literacy rate – the level of consumer understanding of health-care terminology – in our state is low. Many people have not had health insurance before or have been covered through an employer, so many of the terms are new to them and are therefore challenging to understand. So, as marketing professionals we are getting better all the time at taking these complicated laws, rules and regulations and explaining them so the average consumer can understand them.

Another marketing challenge is that the health-care law has established many standards in coverage that have, to a degree, commoditized the market. In the past you could differentiate yourself from competition through product design, but that is becoming more of a challenge. A result is that we are seeing some really innovative product and service offerings come from other areas of the business. I think being faced with new challenges is often when people can be their most creative.

One aspect of industry and brand perception that will be interesting to watch is how insurance companies will be perceived as the Private Option evolves in the state. There is a great deal of speculation about what will happen with the Private Option and, regardless of what the future holds, those of us who are participating will, to some degree, have our brands associated with this program. Of course, what happens with the Private Option is largely beyond our control, but we will continue to take care of our customers and their families and let our customer service, compassion and professionalism speak for what kind of company we are.

Ultimately, how we engage with our consumers has more impact on our brand than any marketing we will ever do – and it’s why we are so dedicated to offering the best customer experience we can. A quality, competitively priced product that is delivered by caring and responsive professionals will always be marketable.