16 Jun 2012

Obamacare Forcing Insurers to Improve Customer Service

16 Jun 2012

How many times do you have to receive bad service before you decide not to go back? For me you only have to show me the dark side once before I decide to never let my sun shine on your establishment ever again. As the saying goes: “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” I wish the same could be said for the healthcare industry. Remember the time you had that bad experience with a health insurance representative? I remember the first time, the second time, ooh yes and of course that other time. But what could I do? It was the only option my employer was offering, and I was happy just to have the coverage.

The health insurance industry is known for less than stellar customer service, but it looks like some insurers are modifying their approach in response to the healthcare reform. In a column published in Forbes, Bruce Japsen writes, “Though the health care overhaul faces an uncertain fate next month before the US Supreme Court, preparations for the massive rollout of its medical care coverage might already be leaving a legacy of improved customer service. The health insurance industry, often at or near the bottom of a consumer’s customer service experience when compared to other industries, is paying more attention and spending more money on improving how health plans interface with patients on the other end of the telephone, a web site or, lately, through an app.”

UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, and Health Care Service Corp. have already made gains in recent customer service rankings in preparation for Obamacare which requires insurers to be more transparent, improve their systems, and answer our questions more quickly and efficiently. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to get federal subsidies to help them pay for coverage on state-regulated insurance exchanges. Customer service will be a key differentiator when purchasing since all insurers will be offering similar benefit packages. “The ability to know your members is going to be more important than ever,” said Austin Waldron, senior vice president and chief customer service officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

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