Recently I was chatting with my old friend, Jonah, and our conversation turned to the worry of living 2,000 miles away from aging parents. Jonah and I grew up in Massachusetts but now live far across the country. Our moms still live in our rural hometowns, and both live alone. At 74, my mom is still an avid walker, an active volunteer, and has tons of wonderful friends. As a staunch New Englander, she isn’t always receptive to the advice of healthcare professionals, but she is part of a pretty good Medicare Advantage plan. She says it is easy to make appointments and manage prescriptions, and she understands her plan benefits well. Besides encouraging her to use her benefits (we are from a rub some dirt in it and you’ll be fine culture…) I don’t have to worry about her healthcare too much.
On the other hand, my friend Jonah’s mom at 67, has become more sedentary and isolated in the last year, making her reticence to address any health issues concerning. Further, during a recent visit, she casually mentioned that her current health plan was being discontinued and that she had to sign up for a new Medicare plan, with an open enrollment end date only a week away.
Jonah has worked for a major national commercial health plan and his wife is a pharmacist. They are highly educated and familiar with the healthcare system. Despite that, he said they spent almost a full and stressful week trying to figure out what plan and benefits would cover his mom’s basic needs. They found the Medicare information complicated. When they first came across the phrase ‘donut hole’ they were sure it was a joke. And, they worried about scams. His mom said a woman was helping her through the process. We now believe she was a broker, but she had a vanity email address, offered no clear suggestions or support, and came across as suspicious instead of as a trustworthy professional.
When they began searching for plans online, they were forced to provide contact information before accessing plan details. That led to an overwhelming slew of emails and incessant calls from multiple health plans and brokers. This type of sales outreach didn’t help them understand the plan offerings or Medicare structure any better but did add to everyone’s stress. And, within this type of aggressive recruitment, plans with unfamiliar brand names just came across as sketchy.
After a week spent online and stressed out, Jonah and his wife did enroll his mom in a plan. They ended up going with a national plan because the brand recognition gave them more peace of mind, and they are fairly sure they enrolled her with the right supplemental coverage options. But, they are also left with the lingering feeling that something may have been overlooked and that they have overpaid for something that is going to be too complicated for his mother to even use.
This anecdote has a wealth of insight for Medicare - and all health plans - looking for ways to recruit and retain members. It also gives smaller regional plans insight into how their recruitment tactics might come across to potential members. More broadly, it’s a reminder of the mounting life challenges we all navigate. Improving health and the healthcare experience has never been more critical, and helping to create coherence out of chaos is not just a business tactic, but a missional call. Zipari is committed to this call, and our recent research is giving us critical insights into how tailored CX can meet the needs of all health plan users. Check out Zipari’s latest survey report, Members of a Certain Age for key up-to-date trends revealing the experiences and expectations of members from the boomer to the millennial generations.