Member Engagement During Uncertain Times

June 26, 2017 Jeanette Stern

These are ambiguous times for providers of health insurance in America. The regulatory landscape seems to be changing daily, and many states are taking a wait-and-see attitude to the changes coming out of Washington. It is impossible at this point to estimate or plan for the final picture of health care in America.

What can the plans do to reassure their members that essential services and coverage will continue? Especially those who use government subsidized health insurance plans such as Medicaid and Medicare?

It would be disingenuous to tell people that nothing will change, or that they will not be impacted by the changes that are coming. Our credibility depends on telling the truth, and the truth is that we don't really know what is going to happen.

But while truth is essential if we want anyone to believe what we say in the future, we also do not want to create a sense of impending doom for our members. We don't want our members to worry needlessly or take drastic actions based on rumor or conjecture, such as stockpiling their medications or stopping essential treatments.

As the healthcare experts who can interpret news for our members, it is our duty to explain the changes that are going to happen as they are announced. We can clarify that any regulatory change that moves from the federal government to the states takes time, probably years, to implement. We can provide ways for members to seek information on specific questions, such as through email or phone services. We can provide direct mailings when appropriate with the information as it directly impacts members, and when expected changes will take place.

It is appropriate to caution members against falling for snake-oil salesmen, the ones peddling false hope through expensive supplement programs. These programs are likely also going to change, and the expense is considerable for very little gain. Desperate measures, such as leaving the country for needed medical, surgical, and dental care to save money, or attempting to obtain prescription medications from mail order firms outside the country, carry significant risk. It is likely that those draconian measures will not be necessary.

We can encourage and support efforts at controlling costs through healthy behavior change, such as dietary changes, exercise, anti-smoking programs, and substance abuse treatments. Now is a perfect time, with both internal and external motivations, for members to change unhealthy behaviors. The reward of not feeling at the mercy of a system that is in chaos might be enough of a spur to support the difficult process of changing an unhealthy behavior.

For members who want to participate actively in the government discourse on these changes that will affect us all, plans can provide information on how to contact the government leaders who will have the deciding votes on new legislation. Without being partisan or encouraging a particular point of view, plans can encourage citizen participation in the process by providing contact information and systems, such as how to start a petition or how to write a letter to a congressman. Being part of the process may, for many, provide emotional relief that their voice, and their concerns, are being heard.

Town-hall type meetings, when more information is available, may also encourage members to keep up to date and participate in the legislative process. By being the contact point for these types of activities, companies will be seen as actively working toward a better final result, and will be seen to have their members best interests at heart. By encouraging the idea that both plans and members are in the same boat, waiting on changes, and then actively participating in the political process, plans will be seen as engaged, active, concerned, and in the forefront of decision making. These perceptions, of being active and committed during chaotic times, will ensure the trust and respect of members once the dust settles.

For more information on member engagement during chaotic times, please contact us.

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