Horses and Zebras

Truth and Tactics for Health Marketers

Gateways, Goal Lines, and You: Issues That Matter

Gateways, Goal Lines, and You: Issues That Matter

Our recent blogs have outlined how health insurers suffer from a pervasive trust issue. We also discussed how this dissatisfaction does not affect all insurers equally or in the same manner. Taking a closer look at our research findings uncovered how local/state-level, not-for-profit, and provider-sponsored health plans have potential credibility advantages in considerations such as:

  • Prioritizing customers over profits
  • Being open and transparent
  • Likely to be accountable
  • Can be trusted
  • Is best for the local community.

While BVK’s research clearly shows the depth of the trust issue and outlines qualities and equities that certain plans can leverage to build trust, is this enough to shift market share?

Are the inherent cost, network size, and benefit advantages of national and regional players “goal line” issues that win the day over nice-to-have features like trust and experience?  Or are they “gateway” features—ones that must be satisfied and “passed through” before other factors are considered to make the final decision?

To explore this question, BVK conducted follow-up research and began by asking respondents to rate a range of cost, trust and experience, and benefit and coverage factors for their relevance to the selection/renewal process.

Given that the top three statements all concern cost-related factors, it would appear we have our answer. Cost appears to be a “goal line” issue that drives success. Does this mean that trust and experience are simply nice-to-have issues?

To help gain a more complete perspective, we created two value proposition statements. One frames the benefits most closely associated with regional or national insurers, with an emphasis on price/affordability, panel size, and benefit advantages.

The second statement aligns with state-level, not-for-profit, provider-sponsored plans featuring competitive, but not superior pricing, a limited provider panel, and includes a range of the qualities and features associated with trust.

In a paired preference test, each statement was selected by approximately 50% of respondents. Given the predominance of cost-related factors in the earlier question, this suggests that cost is a gateway issue, but not the driving factor for 50% of our respondent base.

This table drills down further into the appeal of the trust-based description. While the importance of cost in health plan selection and retention is a key goal line issue for a sizable group of members, there is a similarly sized group that views competitive cost as a gateway issue, with trust and experience factors being goal line issues.

The target group that chose the local, trust-based description were more likely to be male, younger, people of color, better educated, employed on a full-time basis, and living in an urban environment.

We also identified a cautionary note to consider. If a plan builds a brand position based upon trust, they had better deliver. Failing to do so could cause devastating damage to their brand. People who gravitate to this value proposition are likely doing so because of bad past experiences and current frustrations, and that reservoir of emotions could easily turn against a brand if promises are not kept. On the plus side, that same reservoir of feelings, if delivered on, can trigger exceptionally strong brand attraction. In other words, the kind of loyalty that can carry your brand over the goal line for the long run.

In our next blog, we will bring our thoughts on the issue of trust to a conclusion by exploring the subject of narrow networks and whether they are a significant impediment to plan selection.

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