Coughing after COVID: The Future of the Health Insurance Industry

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As we emerge from the caves of quarantine, people all over the world will be trying to return to some semblance of “normal” — but they may not find it. COVID-19 has changed so much of what we once knew and proven that “business as usual” simply won’t be. Already, our favorite restaurants, retail stores and other points of business have created drastic policy and operational changes that none of us could have imagined four months ago.

And yet, perhaps the biggest change of all is still on the horizon: the healthcare industry (more particularly, health insurance). So, a year or two from now, when you feel a tickle in your throat and start to cough, the way you receive care may be drastically different — and the way insurance operates to cover your needs may also be unrecognizable. To find out what some of the post-pandemic health insurance industry trends might include, we sat down with Dave Thomas (CEO of thomasarts), Ashley Bloxham (Executive Director, Business Development) and Mark Farr (Group Strategy Director).

Question 1: What health insurance industry trends do you see emerging post-COVID-19? 

Dave: We’re at a rare turning point when we will look back at pre-COVID and post-COVID in the insurance industry. It will never be the same as pre-COVID (which was unsustainable). The pandemic really exposed a lot of weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the system, but it has also shown the future of healthcare. 

Ashley: The most obvious trend to emerge is the use of technology. Technology already had an impact on the customer experience: shopping, making decisions about healthcare, etc. But COVID may have been the catalyst for changing how we consume healthcare in new ways — like telehealth, which has already seen big increases in usage over the last few months. 

Mark: Exactly. For example, there is a new demand from seniors to receive care at a distance and it’s growing. This is one of the big insurance industry trends that may influence product design or how those of us in insurance marketing prioritize talking about certain features. 

I think another big trend is the continued cost pressure on employers. This only magnifies the need for the insurance industry to develop new products and solutions that will keep employees insured while also keeping costs down for companies.

Ashley: Sort of like how 16 years ago we saw the rise in high-deductible health plans (HDHP) to help ease this financial burden on employers. Then health savings accounts (HSA) to help ease the burden to employees. In the future, we’ll see more products like these and different solutions, possibly even individual insurance that consumers own, and can take with them across jobs, but are reimbursed for.

Dave: No one knows the future. No one. But the status quo will change and this environment is ripe for disruption. I can see a future where an individual insurance industry is able to offer 80–90% of “the optimal,” in terms of coverage and access to care, but for a fraction of the cost.

Question 2: How should insurance marketing strategies adapt to these trends?

Dave: These are the moments where market share shifts can be huge. And dollar flows shift from one model to another. So hunkering-down and hitting the brakes is exactly the wrong plan. 

Mark: 100% agree. Especially because demand doesn’t drop for things people need, like health care and insurance. Those who continue spending but shift it to seek out new ways to meet consumer needs will win. And brands that are driven by consumers will avoid the big risk of being seen as “profiteering.” They’ll be seen as providing a solution, a path forward, someone to trust.

Ashley: We saw examples of this in the auto insurance industry where many providers returned and reduced premiums for May. Those companies appear to be more genuine and not profiteering because they put their customers’ needs first. And that stuff doesn’t get forgotten. People remember that years down the line. 

Dave: I think the best insurance marketing already employs the voice of consumers. Good marketers know the needs and fears and how to understand and follow their consumers. To succeed post-COVID, marketers and advertisers will really need to do even more to understand their consumers’ willingness to adapt and how to meet them where they are.

 

Question 3: How can insurance agents and brokers succeed in this new normal?

Dave: New products and solutions will only add further confusion to an already complicated industry. Agents and brokers will need to help their customers understand their new options and companies like Integrity, through their large agent network, could be at the forefront of helping people decide what will work best for them.

Ashley: Sales is heavily impacted by COVID and the new normal does require a creative shift to adapt. Field sales organizations like Integrity are thinking of new ways to get things done — like making more educational content to help customers decide what will work best for them, and boosting telesales to move leads through the process. 

Mark: Selling insurance shifted from in-person seminars to more online webinars at the start of the pandemic and this is going to become the standard. Consumers learned a lot during COVID and are already more comfortable making choices virtually. 

Dave: This distance selling is a lot different for folks like me who used to sell door-to-door. But it’s the way forward because it can still deliver most of the value of an in-home experience, for way less. And it does it in a way that’s safer for the agent and the customer. So, those who can provide this safe access through distance — assisted by technology, innovative solutions and a good experience — will be the ones that succeed. 

Ashley: I think a lot of companies will come up with new technologies, tools and content to make the experience of distance selling easier and more intuitive. I mean, you have to give consumers a reason to buy, switch and expand their insurance coverage. Giving customers what they want and making it easy is a big way to do that.

The health insurance industry has changed drastically in the wake of COVID-19. And as this industry continues to change, the answer is not going to be holding back, but rather finding new ways to improve the experience your company creates for its consumers. For help navigating this new normal, contact us at TA and see how we can use our experience and expertise to help your business.

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June 22, 2020by Dave Thomas, Ashley Bloxham, and Mark Farr

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