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Key Questions for Insurers in Wake of Supreme Court Decision

Posted by Amy Modini on Mon, Jul 02, 2012

Obamacare and health insurersAlong with millions of Americans-patients,doctors,lawyers and, politicians-health insurers also waited with bated breath for last week's Supreme Court’s ruling on health reform. Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the basic provisions of the law, health insurers face the challenge of understanding how traditional markets will be impacted by the individual mandate and implementation of health insurance exchanges.  

Even with the ruling, there is still much that remains unknown about the law’s impact, and significant uncertainty about how the law will be enforced in each state.  But there are still critical questions insurers must consider now as they adapt to a new era in health reform, including:
  • How will this ruling and the establishment of exchanges impact company revenue and profitability?  Are there ways to take advantage of this ruling and increase company margins and revenues?

  • How do we compete effectively in an open exchange?  If price is the key criteria to consumer decision making, is there a way to minimize its influence and yet be successful?

  • Is there a need to re-examine the existing client base beyond the traditional demographics? Will an alternate classification help create a competitive advantage?

  • How do we move beyond the traditional employer sponsored channel?  How can we take advantage of technological shifts?

  • How relevant is the present communication strategy? Is there an opportunity to approach the future in a new, cohesive way that complements the product and distribution strategy?

Addressing these questions and mitigating the coming challenges will not be easy; surviving and flourishing in a changing market requires a truly new and innovative approach. We believe insurers must:

  • Reconsider how they approach product development – the insurers who will be successful in this new reality will be those who are able and willing to stretch boundaries of what insurance products look like to meet the needs of the customers, including offering supplemental insurance, wellness programs, incentives and monetary gains for meeting health goals, etc.

  • Go beyond traditional ways of looking at the market – motivations, attitudes, goals, and behaviors will become as, if not more, important to understanding and effectively messaging to insurance customers. Alternate classification of consumers could help insurance companies underwrite consumers in a more effective and efficient manner.  This could be especially advantageous for smaller insurance companies that cannot compete solely on price; perhaps it is time to start looking at a niche strategy. For a more detailed look at alternative market segmentation for health insurance, read our white paper: A New Approach to Segmentation for the Changing Insurance Industry.

  • Embrace the leaps in technology – insurers must explore the possibility of reaching consumers directly (internet, smartphone, etc.), and simplifying the purchasing process.  A simple product lineup with an easy buying process can go a long way in increasing an insurer’s favorability rating.

  • Consider a new messaging strategy – the health industry’s transition is a great time to consider resetting the existing image. Great products and great service need great messaging.  What are the goals people are trying to achieve? What is it that truly motivates them? What is it that truly sets us apart and does it add value to our customers’ lives? Is there a need to have specific messages to specific groups of consumers? Think about the answers to these questions. Insurers in the end must be able to convince consumers that they are partners in this journey and are mutually dependent on each other’s success.

Amidst all the uncertainty insurers are facing, we believe that to mitigate the uncertainties of the reform landscape, insurers will have to go back to the drawing board, rethink how they look at the market, engage in product development and address the fundamental goals of their customers. Insurers must recognize and leverage core capabilities that others cannot replicate. Competitive advantages stem from not one but from a series of strategic decisions. The correct mix of product, distribution, message and market coupled with inherent operational strengths (e.g., knowledge of a local market, ability to underwrite at low costs,  relationships with existing customers) can set insurers apart from competition and pave the way to long term success.

Posted by Amy Modini. Amy is an Account Director for CMB’s Healthcare Practice, when she gets the time she loves going to the beach with her two kids.

Topics: healthcare research, product development, health insurance research, market strategy and segmentation