What payers learned during first open enrollment

Now that the dust of the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges has settled a bit, how did insurers handle the first open enrollment period and how are they communicating with and engaging new health insurance exchange enrollees?

Here's a roundup of some of the lessons learned: 

Start with caution

With (mostly well-founded) concerns about software issues and sicker-than-expected enrollees, many big-name insurers took a cautious approach to entering the new online marketplaces, Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondent Jay Hancock told C-SPAN's Washington Journal.  

For example, UnitedHealthcare, the largest U.S. insurer, took it easy this year going into the exchanges, selling exchange plans in few marketplaces. The insurer was absent from California's exchange, one of the largest in the country. Aetna and Cigna were also cautious when it came to their first round of exchange offerings.

Now that roughly 8 million people have signed up, insurers are looking to expand exchange offerings next year and make individual insurance a bigger piece of their business pie. At least 10 states, including Kentucky, California, Connecticut and Washington, will likely add more insurers to their online marketplaces, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

UnitedHealth is taking note, creating plans to expand its presence on the exchanges. Meanwhile, Blues plans in Iowa and North Dakota that sat out in 2014 will operate in those marketplaces in 2015, Hancock said.

Educate consumers

A major problem for insurers was that the rocky exchange rollout overwhelmed consumers, Insurance Networking News reported. Moreover, new consumers lacked the information they needed to make smart health insurance decisions.

"We were selling deductible products or various amounts of coverage long before the consumer knew how to act like a consumer," said Harvard Pilgrim Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Vincent Capozzi, INN noted.

Going into next year's open enrollment period, insurers need to give consumers more cost and quality information through enhanced transparency and interactive tools. For example, Harvard Pilgrim offers personal calculators to inform consumers about heart attack or stroke risks, according to INN.

Independence Blue Cross has adopted a similar post-open enrollment strategy, shifting its focus from signing up exchange enrollees to helping new members understand how to use their policies.

For more:
- watch the interview
- read the Insurance Networking News article