Marketing

Plans Should Strive for ‘Seamless’ Digital Engagement

Health insurers have ramped up their use of digital tools to improve customer satisfaction, but still have more work to do — particularly as utilization returns to normal two years after the pandemic’s start. Customer satisfaction is lagging after several years of improving scores, and digital tools are disappointing some enrollees.

J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study identified call center customer support and digital tools as “key areas in need of improvement,” the advisory firm said May 26. “Health plan members expect a personalized, hands-on experience when dealing with customer support and they expect a seamless digital experience when engaging online. Health plans have some work to do to get the formulas right,” said Christopher Lis, managing director, global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power.

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Expanded Footprints, Enhanced Benefits Aided Plans’ OEP Gains

Medicare Advantage enrollment reached nearly 28.8 million as of May, reflecting an overall increase of about 1% during the three-month Open Enrollment Period (OEP) that ended on March 31, according to the latest update to AIS’s Directory of Health Plans (DHP). That’s compared with growth of 5.3% from October 2021 to February, reflecting results from the Annual Election Period (AEP) that ran from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Beneficiaries who enrolled in an MA plan during the AEP have a one-time opportunity to change their coverage selection during the OEP, and insurers that made above-average membership gains during both periods attributed their successes to product enhancements, geographic expansions and strong distribution partnerships.

Startups Oscar Health, Bright Health Exit Markets & Tighten Belts

Startup insurers Oscar Health, Inc. and Bright Health Group, Inc. have decided they will no longer sell individual and/or family plans in certain states after this year. Ari Gottlieb, a principal at consulting firm A2 Strategy Group, tells AIS Health that those are signs the companies are looking to stem large losses and shore up their businesses as their stock prices fall and raising additional capital becomes harder.

Gottlieb says he anticipates Cigna Corp, which invested in Oscar earlier this year, could buy the company as soon as the end of the year. The fate of Bright remains unknown, although Gottlieb does not see Oscar, Bright or the two other publicly traded startup insurers (Alignment Healthcare and Clover Health Investments Corp.) becoming profitable anytime soon. Gottleib says Cigna may buy Bright also.

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Various Components Play Important Role in Companies’ Definition, Demonstration of Drugs’ Value

As prices for health care services, especially drugs, continue to be under the microscope of public scrutiny, life sciences companies are under pressure now more than ever to make sure that they can demonstrate the value of their products. But this may be easier said than done, as a patient’s perception of value may be quite different than, for example, that of a payer. But these conversations are starting to happen and need to continue to evolve and include all industry stakeholders to truly incorporate value into the equation, say life sciences experts.

According to Daniel C. Lane, Pharm.D., Ph.D., director of US Access Marketing-Customer & Portfolio Value Generation for Bristol Myers Squibb, “Value is something that’s very individualized…If you think about value on a conceptual level, it’s a benefit being received over some type of value-assessment measure…At the elemental level, that’s what we as a life science industry are really trying to understand — how do we communicate that?”

Segmented, Personalized Outreach Drives MAO Retention Efforts

Medicare consumers are facing an overwhelming variety of resources and plan choices and are showing signs of increased movement during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP). As a result, effective member engagement during the OEP and throughout the year is becoming increasingly important and can be achieved through using data to segment membership and deliver targeted, personalized messaging to ensure that a member is in the right plan from the start, industry experts advised during the 13th Annual Medicare Market Innovations Forum, hosted by Strategic Solutions Network, LLC (SSN).

After the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) that typically runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, the three-month Medicare OEP starts on Jan. 1 and allows beneficiaries who selected a Medicare Advantage plan to make a onetime coverage change. This year was the fourth OEP since it was reinstated by the Trump administration after a hiatus, and seniors’ utilization of the renewed opportunity is growing.

News Briefs: Second WCAS-Humana Joint Venture Will Deploy $1.2 Billion for Primary Care Clinics

Humana Inc. on May 16 said it had established a second joint venture with Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe (WCAS) to further expand its value-based primary care clinics. (Hg Capital Partners and WCAS share control of MMIT, the parent of AIS Health.) The new JV will provide up to $1.2 billion of additional capital for the development of approximately 100 new CenterWell Senior Primary Care Clinics between 2023 and 2025, said Humana. The expansion follows an earlier JV that is currently deploying up to $800 million of capital to open 67 clinics by early 2023 and support their ongoing operations, added the insurer. WCAS will have majority ownership of the JV, while Humana will own a minority stake.

What’s in a Name? Insurer Rebrands Reflect Diversification Push

Anthem, Inc. said recently that it will rename itself “Elevance” in a bid to be seen a diversified enterprise, known as much for its technology and business services branches as its traditional health insurance business. Anthem isn’t alone in its broad ambitions. The largest health insurance firms have all diversified their businesses, moves that are likely responses to the tight regulation and limited growth opportunities in health insurance for national-scale firms — and the encroachment of tech and investment firms into the health care sector.

The name Elevance, a combination of “elevate” and “advance,” isn’t official yet. Shareholders will vote on whether to adopt it during the firm’s May 18 investor meeting.

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With AEP Switching Low, MAOs Must Monitor Member Experience

Medicare beneficiaries have more plan choices than ever before, in addition to a dizzying array of supplemental benefits and increased PPO options, but plan switching has stalled, according to a new study from Deft Research. That leaves Medicare Advantage plans to consider whether low switching is largely due to members feeling satisfied with their current coverage or overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information being presented to them, observed industry experts during a recent webinar hosted by Rebellis Group LLC. As a result, members’ experience during the Annual Election Period may warrant a closer look as plans think about their strategy for the next AEP.

In its 2022 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study, Deft observed an overall switching rate of 11% during the most recent AEP. That’s compared with 12% seen in 2021 and 23% in 2015, reported George Dippel, executive vice president with Deft, during the March 10 webinar, “With more choices than ever, how will your Medicare Advantage plan stand out in 2023?” The annual survey featured responses from 3,389 Medicare enrollees, including 1,846 seniors who were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021 and 1,183 seniors with Medicare Supplemental (MedSupp) coverage. The remaining 360 respondents had Original Medicare only (OMO).

Slim Marketing Guidelines Stress Importance of Reviewing Regs

After nearly four years, CMS has released an updated version of the Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMG) that serve to interpret and provide guidance on the marketing and communication rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D sponsors. Compliance experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the long-awaited document is light on additional guidance and clarification except for a few topics, and plans are encouraged to review all related regulations to stay compliant with marketing rules.

Aside from severely whittling down the document — the 2022 MCMG is now a mere 51 pages, down from 84 pages when last released as a full document for the 2019 plan year and 124 pages in the 2018 version — CMS has noticeably consolidated and reorganized sections, moving some subsections into other areas or removing guidance that was codified. The agency reminded plans that the document is to “be used in conjunction with the regulatory requirements to aid plans in understanding and complying with the regulations.”

2022 Outlook: Increased Marketing Oversight Is Top MAO Compliance Concern

While CMS guidance and oversight regarding Medicare Advantage sales and marketing was rather uneventful under the Trump administration, several recent actions by the Biden administration signal a growing focus on Medicare marketing, including MA organizations’ use of third-party entities. The most notable of those was an October 2021 memorandum that explicitly reminded MAOs that they are responsible for the activities of first tier, downstream or related entities (FDRs), including third-party marketers with which they may not directly contract. CMS in that memo clarified that MA plans must submit all marketing materials to CMS prior to use, even when certain advertisements do not mention a plan by name, and reiterated this in its latest update to the Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines.