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This is our 2021. It might still seem a little bit surreal that we are more than one year into a global pandemic, but we’re still here. Everyone is doing what we can to make good choices for our families’ health. This year also marks the start of a new presidential administration, and that means a potential for health care policy changes that could affect us and many people we know.
We recently sat down with a few of our own experts to get their thoughts on what might be coming for the entire health insurance industry, and how it could affect the marketing strategies that we put our heart and soul into every day.
Lots of us had health insurance coverage concerns even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics like affordability, benefits and access to care are top of mind for Americans and will likely stay there for a while. These concerns are even greater for seniors. When the Kaiser Foundation reports that the trust fund that supports Medicare Part A is facing earlier insolvency with the recent economic downturn, it’s more reason to wonder what might be coming.
ThomasArts (TA) is a full-service advertising agency with vast experience across the national health care landscape, and we were excited to chat with our in-house team of healthcare experts, Larry Lue (Director of Client Services), Lisa Goldstein (Senior Strategist) and Dave Thomas (CEO and founder of TA). These are their insights on what the future could hold, and what it means for all of us. Let’s dive in.
2021 Healthcare Q1: With a Democrat as president and Democrats in control of the House, what regulatory moves do you expect them to make, and how do you see insurance companies reacting to those changes?
Dave: The administration would like to lower the Medicare age to 60 (from 65), but they might not have the votes needed, so we might instead see an expansion of Medicaid coverage to provide for those who are most vulnerable. Restoring parts of ACA (“Obamacare”) that were recently removed will also be a priority. Then, over the next several years the push for a public option could get stronger, pitched as Medicare for All, or Medicare Advantage for All.
If that happens, insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage could have a huge opportunity to grow their core offerings and serve more Americans. Marketers and brokers alike would then have the chance to provide education and resources to help individuals get the coverage they need.
Lisa: With greater support from the administration for ACA, we are already seeing insurance carriers getting back to selling to individuals on the Health Exchanges.
Larry: Medicare Advantage (MA) has proven itself over the years because it is still providing better care at better costs, with simplified payments. This is what will help preserve MA going forward — it strikes a balance between being seen as “single payer,” while still encouraging competition among the insurance companies. In the past, the idea of a public option has met resistance, but that opinion could be shifting as the need for affordable health coverage becomes more and more apparent. The federal government’s pledge to fund COVID-19 vaccines for all is a good example of a well-regarded move that benefits everyone.
And with millions of Americans having lost their insurance due to the pandemic, Medicaid is likely to grow substantially despite the increased cost. For insurance companies, branding will be key in helping differentiate their offerings in the face of the many possible shifts in the industry.
2021 Healthcare Q2: With the experience you’ve built, what advice would you give to insurance marketers or brokers with all of these potential changes?
Lisa: Be ready to market directly to individuals, especially as ACA keeps evolving. If health insurance companies can help politicians better understand the needs and concerns of their constituents, then we might see more change in the health insurance system, faster.
Larry: The population at large is much more aware of the affordability issue in health care and how quickly an economic downturn can unravel individual lives and well-being. And individuals still want value from their health care dollar, not just the cheapest plan possible. Insurers have to educate consumers on options that might seem complicated or are more expensive, but can lead to a healthier, happier outcome for everyone.
Dave: Understand the consumer. Insurers must stay on top of shifting trends across the market: demographics, attitudes and politics. After feeling the effects from an economic downturn and a pandemic, more Americans will shift to believing that health care should be a right, not a privilege. Insurers have to craft messaging that speaks to what the individual consumer wants and believes, especially for Medicare marketing, even if that message needs to be tailored region by region.
Brokers and insurers can increase the impact of their message by understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using digital tools that help consumers make decisions that are right for them, balancing premiums, out-of-pocket maximums, benefits and more. It is crucial to get this right. Beyond the next few years, insurers should also be prepared to shift branding and marketing if the public option for health care becomes politically feasible.
2021 Healthcare Q3: What are some of the biggest trends outside of the new administration that are directing the future of the health insurance industry? How is TA helping our clients navigate these forces?
Dave: As mentioned above, the changing demographics are so important. Plus, the current shortage of Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) is changing consumer behavior, potentially driving growth in alternative medicine or visits to non-PCP professionals.
Lisa: Major wellness-focused retail brands (such as Walgreens and CVS) are showing that health care is literally moving to meet the consumer — with services in pharmacies and other retail health centers. Consumers still rely on medical advice from their pharmacist. They love that personal connection — it’s important to remember that. Further, we are seeing the positive impact of giving consumers easier access to health care through home visits and telehealth.
Dave: Yes. Brick and mortar stores could become your neighborhood health center.
Larry: Secure technology is pushing the market toward sharing one’s medical data, so that the people providing care have access to it. Technology will be increasingly important to deliver personalized and proactive care.
Much is happening in the health insurance and health care industry, from the loss of employer-based coverage for millions of Americans to increasing enrollment in subsidized coverage like Medicaid. One interesting insight to come out of recent surveys is that even in the wake of a pandemic, 45% of consumers are open to switching carriers. This means insurers need to simultaneously take care of their existing members, as well as offer the conveniences (like virtual tools and neighborhood health centers) that will entice switchers.
As we wrapped up the conversation, Dave was able to capture the landscape well, keeping the people-focused approach that we know (and love) him for. Whether insurers are speaking to consumers who are willing to pay for the best plan possible, pivoting to help those who have lost insurance, or building tools for those who just need a little advice, it’s a universal message:
“Meet people where they are.”
If your organization would like to discuss how 2021 Healthcare changes may impact your business, we invite you to contact us to set up a consultation.
back to insights
April 8, 2021by Dave Thomas, Larry Lue, Lisa Goldstein, and Andrea Feucht
Topic industry insights
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