McKinsey study has valuable lessons
What Consumers Want in Health Care is a valuable study and has many lessons for employers about how to communicate health care benefits. The study speaks to the shift in the health care marketplace and how it is placing more and more financial responsibility in the hands of individual consumers. Not surprisingly, the survey found, “Faced with health care decisions, consumers are concerned, confused, and unprepared.”
Consumers are very concerned about heath care costs. In fact, the survey found, many are more concerned about the financial repercussions of an injury than the injury itself. They are overwhelmed about making health care choices and want personalized support to guide them through the process.
But, the demand for decision support is not being met. “When choosing among these products, consumers want more advice and guidance to help them understand what would be right for them at a given stage of life. But though nearly 70 percent of the respondents say they want support when choosing new health care coverage, only 41 percent of those who had received such support in the past found it satisfactory.” The same is often true of employee populations—even though decision support tools are available, in many cases they are under-used or too complex to help individuals choose.
“Contributing to the respondents’ feeling of ill-preparedness is widespread confusion about what medical care will or can cost—a confusion that can lead to poor financial planning,” the article explains. This highlights the need for companies to educate their employees not just about their current copays and deductibles, but also the long-term costs for medical care. This education should be combined with 401(k) communication and financial planning. It serves companies—and especially their employees—well to talk about the two together. Do not keep medical plans and retirement plans in silos like so many communication strategies do.
The survey also found people rely heavily on brand recognition and referrals when choosing health care. With access to quality data becoming more and more prevalent, we don’t want employees asking their friends for doctor recommendations. We do want them to research the best doctor for the type of care they need, based on cost and quality data. This is a big behavior change that employers will need to support by providing guidance and tools.
If there’s a silver lining to the survey, it is validating that when consumers do shop, it’s often during moments of considerable change—getting or losing a job, becoming eligible for Medicare, or changing their marital status. We know that life events are a great way to target communication to employees when you have their captive attention. Employers can exploit these times of change as strong education opportunities by providing compelling and targeted communications. Employee profiles are a great way to illustrate different scenarios. Or, consider a podcast series focused on each life event—5 minutes on having a baby, getting married, changing jobs, and so forth, and the health care and financial decisions associated with those events.
You can read the whole article on McKinsey’s site. It is worth signing up for a free membership to access the detailed content.