The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) is calling for states, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and health insurers to have complicated, in-depth communications with tens of millions of consumers — including many previously uninsured consumers — about a year from now.
Technology companies are hoping the rise of the PPACA exchanges will lead to strong new demand for customer relationship management (CRM) systems and services.
One of the companies taking an interest is Google (Nasdaq:GOOG).
Google is trying to get health insurers and brokers interested in using search-related analytical tools, to figure out what consumers are thinking, and Web-based branding campaigns, to get consumers to think nice things about the insurers and brokers.
Bill Lan, Google’s industry director for insurance, said Google believes it could play an important role in helping the health insurance industry shift from an insurer-to-employer approach to an insurer-to-consumer approach.
Since the voters put President Obama back in office Nov. 6, “the conversations have definitely started to heat up,” Lan said in an interview. “Now, people are asking, ‘What do we do to get ready?’”
Insurers already have been using Google’s You Tube video service to support insurer-to-consumer marketing efforts in the Medicare Advantage market, which, in some ways, may be similar to what the PPACA exchange markets may be like.
UnitedHealth Group, for example, has already been trying to attract the attention of consumers in the Medicare market by posting videos about Medicare on a Medicare site.
Humana also has been posting Medicare Web videos.
For insurers, one surprise has been what a high percentage of their prospects are already online, Lan said.
Traditionally, insurers have thought of consumers ages 65 and older is being offline consumers, but 84 percent of those consumers now own a computer, a telephone or some other device that connects them with the Internet, Lan said.
For insurers, Lan said, another sobering realization is how much effort they now have to put into marketing their brand, rather than relying on a broker or employer to flesh out company image details at the point of enrollment.
If a health a plan that thinks of itself as a high-priced, high-value option ranks near the top of a page of exchange results in terms of price, and a consumer has never heard of the plan, the plan may get no chance to convince the consumer how much value it offers, Lan said.
Going forward, insurers might have to give more attention to live chat tools, and even live video chat tools, to give the bewildered consumers using the new exchange sites access to live humans.