Posted on 25 Jun 13 by Annie George
More than eight in ten (82%) Americans say the brand of a health insurer is somewhat or very important when deciding on a health insurance plan. While these findings are similar among men (80%) and women (84%), those 55 years of age and older (88%) are significantly more likely than any other age group (76% ages 18-34, 80% ages 35-44, 82% ages 45-54) to find the health insurer brand important. These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,084 U.S. adults surveyed online from May 31-June 4, 2013 by Harris Interactive.
With the Affordable Care Act and health insurance exchanges gearing up for implementation, the relevance of the healthcare consumer is growing. As the balance of power shifts to individuals, the impact of consumers' purchasing decisions will be felt throughout the industry.
"Nearly two in ten (19%) Americans report that they do not currently have health insurance," says Debra Richman, Senior Vice President, Healthcare Strategy and Business Development, Harris Interactive.
"While this group of uninsured is younger, what is interesting—and of great relevance to health insurers-is that those who are currently uninsured are significantly less likely to find the brand of the insurance plan important (70%) than those who do have coverage (85%). An opportunity could exist for lesser-known brands to successfully compete and gain market share in the insurance exchanges–especially in this younger and healthier demographic. In addition, brand is especially important to those 55 years of age and older, and those insurers offering products to this demographic should consider promoting the importance of their brand," states Richman.
When asked which factors are among the most important when selecting a health insurance plan, Americans are most likely to select overall plan price (including premiums, deductibles, co pays, etc.) and benefits included in the plan (66% and 64%, respectively), followed by which doctors are included in the plan's network (35%), the reputation of the insurer (30%) and which hospitals are included in the plan's network (24%).
Women are more likely than men to feel that overall plan price, benefits included in the plan and doctors in the plan's network are important.
Importance of Brand Equity
"The value of Brand Equity plays a critical role in a consumer-driven retail marketplace," says Richman. "A powerful brand can attract consumers, accentuate the focus on an insurer's strengths, help to acquire new members and retain current members, and reinforce the core component that all healthcare organizations are now focused on: the customer experience."
For the fourth consecutive year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Health Plan Brand of the Year. EquiTrend is an annual brand equity study that measures the perceptions of 38,500+ American consumers on more than 1,500 lifestyle, product and service brands and is comprised of three key factors: Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration.
United Healthcare and regional insurer Health Net also perform ahead of the category average. This is the second year in a row that these three brands have all outperformed the average for their category, and they are the only brands out of eight ranked to finish above the category average in both years, speaking to the strength of these brands among consumers nationally.
Health Insurance brands ranked above category average:
1. Blue Cross and Blue Shield
2. United Healthcare
3. Health Net
Other Health Insurance brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Aetna, Amerigroup, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente.
"As health insurance coverage becomes more standardized and commoditized, insurers will need to compete aggressively to differentiate themselves from competitors," Richman notes. "Customer experience, with a more individualized approach, will be an important area of focus for plans striving to maintain member loyalty and engagement. It will be important to closely match a consumer's experience with their needs and expectations. Brand Equity is a vital component influencing consumers as they exercise choice in selecting health plans."
Impact of Consumer Choice
A core element in understanding Brand Equity within EquiTrend is Consumer Connection, which measures the strength of the bond between consumers and a brand and is comprised of Performance, Emotion, Fit and Trust. There is a significant increase in the category average for 'Fit' scores for 2013, as well as for two of the three brands coming in ahead of the average Brand Equity level for the category: Blue Cross and Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare. Richman notes, "The increased 'Fit' score is important, as consumers more closely evaluate whether an insurer is meeting their needs—in other words, whether it is a better 'Fit' for them."
"Moving forward, many consumers will be evaluating plan features and assessing the value of their health plans. In a retail marketplace where decisions are in the minds and wallets of consumers, health insurers will be well served to meet consumers' expectations," Richman concludes.
Harris Poll Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 31 and June 4, 2013 among 2,084 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore,
Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.