Brand equity expected to weigh heavily in HIX environment

The newly released Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study revealed that consumers shopping for health insurance will strongly factor in brand equity when payers begin competing on health insurance exchanges in 2014.

“More than ever before, consumers are paying increased attention to their healthcare options and selecting products and services they prefer to consume,” said Debra Richman, senior vice president of Healthcare Business Development & Strategy at Harris Interactive, in a press release announcing the findings. “As a result, positive brand recognition has become and will increasingly be critically important.”

The study noted that under health reform, more consumers will be obtaining their insurance through insurance exchanges as opposed to through their employers. In order to meet the needs of this growing consumer market for health plans, insurance companies will need to understand better how their customers make healthcare choices and what their expectations are both when choosing a plan or choosing to stay with a plan.

“Consumer behavior in healthcare is beginning to mirror how consumers behave when making other purchasing decisions, whether for consumer goods or financial services. Consumers are evaluating brand equity, user experience, convenience, and product or service value,” Richman added. “Brand reputation is now one of the key criteria when selecting a health plan -- this is especially important in a market where benefits and costs may be similar, which will definitely be the case in an insurance-exchange environment.”

The EQ study is produced annually to measure the perceptions of more than 38,000 American consumers about more than 1,500 lifestyle, product and service brands. Among insurers, the 2012 study found that brand-equity remained strong for the top-ranked health insurers.

Among the 10 competitive brands included in the study, Blue Cross Blue Shield was the top-ranked health insurer for the third straight year. UnitedHealthcare and regional insurer HealthNet were second and third, respectively.

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