AHIP Institute: Consumers and exchanges intricately intertwined

Several themes emerge as I peruse the agenda for AHIP Institute 2013 held later this week in Las Vegas--consumers are key, but the millions of new consumers about to enroll in health insurance exchanges are widely unknown by insurers. Also, the online marketplaces will profoundly alter the post-reform industry, moving it toward a more consumer-oriented system.

Those two themes are intricately intertwined, as insurers can't sell plans on the exchanges if they don't adequately understand this consumer group, many of whom are matriculating into the market for the first time. And exchanges can't be successful if consumers don't sign up and enroll this fall.

Although I'm unable to attend the annual conference this time around, I will be reporting on the sidelines, interviewing speakers from afar to bring you the most up-to-date information I can without being physically present in the Sin City.

Instead of boots on the ground, I'll have an ear to the telephone so I can stay in touch with the speakers and attendees, hearing about their experiences on the convention center floor to gauge the overall mood and energy of the insurance industry on the cusp of a major transformation.

Addressing the subject of consumers, Joan Kennedy, vice president of consumer health engagement at Cigna, will chat with me about how the company continually refines its understanding of both its existing and prospective members to help enrich the consumer experience. She will answer the questions, "What do consumers want?" "What do they know?" and "What do they need?"

Aetna's Chief Nursing Officer Susan Kosman will discuss the benefits of case managers and how case management programs can help insurers in a post-reform, consumer-oriented market. She also will share lessons Aetna has learned about building strong teams, using quality-improvement processes to facilitate change and empowering team members with a focus on consumer relationships.

Meanwhile, UnitedHealth will be co-presenting a session about how insurers can best move into the consumer-focused market, and I will chat with speaker Tom Paul, UnitedHealth's chief consumer officer, about how the nation's largest insurer is redesigning the company to better fulfill consumer needs. He also will discuss how retail consumerism and healthcare converge and explain how UnitedHealth is working toward that goal.

I will catch up with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina's Thomas Carleton, director of strategic development, to discuss what he learned at the AHIP conference. And since he's part of a panel examining how technology can drive new business development opportunities, including consolidation, partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, we will talk about how health IT can help drive down costs and improve quality.

So if you're treating yourself to a trip to the Vegas strip, I bid you safe travels and a productive conference. If you're staying home this year, allow me to do the legwork for you, albeit from afar, so you can still catch up on the goings on of your very busy fellow industry players. - Dina (@HealthPayer)

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