Insurers want to make sure their new members become reliable, long-term customers. That's more difficult since the 8 million new consumers primarily signed up for individual plans instead of employer-based policies.
"It's certainly more of a challenge when it's an individual as opposed to an entire employee group," Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC's Health Research Institute, told the Washington Post Wonkblog. "It's always more challenging with newcomers who [insurers] haven't had a chance to develop a relationship with or any kind of track record."
That's partly why it's hard to predict how many people will stay with the plans they signed up for or switch insurers. The fact that so many plans sold on the health insurance exchanges featured narrow networks could hurt insurers if consumers decide to take their business elsewhere in search of certain providers.
Another part of the problem is new consumers don't understand how insurance coverage works and many people have gaps in knowledge about basic insurance terms. That could cause these members to drop coverage, particularly if they face unexpected high out-of-pocket costs.
Hoping to retain their new members, insurers already are taking steps to help build brand loyalty. For example, some have reached out to their new members and placed them into disease management programs, a move companies hope will increase consumers' health profile, thereby boosting their allegiance, Wonkblog noted.
State exchange leaders will also start focusing on ensuring retention of these new insurance members. Officials with the Washington, D.C., exchange, as well as insurers selling plans on the marketplace, reached out to about 700 enrollees who hadn't paid their first month's premium. "That resulted in a bunch of payments," Executive Director Mila Kofman told Wonkblog.
To learn more:
- read the Washington Post Wonkblog article