To more effectively communicate with the various age groups they serve, health insurance providers need to reexamine their approaches to billing and claim information, according to research from Pitney Bowes Inc.

Results showed that 46% of respondents want to receive billing and claim information by mail, however, more than one-third (38%) want to receive it both in the mail and digitally via secure online sites, and by extension, insurers should employ a multi-channel approach to meet customer expectations. Interestingly, respondents in the older age brackets are just as interested in multi-channel communications as Americans who are under 35 years old.

 “In today’s health care environment, changes in technology and consumer preferences are increasing the complexity of customer communications,” said Christoph Stehmann, president, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies. “To be successful, health insurance providers need to understand their customer base, make sure messages are clear in statements and bills, and use multi-channel communications to meet the preferences of all age groups.”

Highlights from the survey:

• When it comes to patient information, 82% said they trust their health insurance provider. Those 65 years and up trust their insurers the most (96%); those 45-to-54 trust their provider the least, at 77%.

• Nearly two-thirds (63%) gave their provider top grades for message clarity, however, 37% gave average or below average grades.

• Insurers received the highest grades for clarity from those 65 years and up, with 75% giving an “A” or “B.” Insurers received the lowest grades from the 45-to-54 year-olds, and 55-to-64-year-olds, with 16% of both groups giving a “D” or “F.”

• More than three-quarters (78%) prefer phone conversations over e-mail, live online chat or physical mail when they have a problem or question about claims or benefits. This percentage is higher for the oldest age groups, while the youngest are most likely to not contact their health insurer.

• Asked whether their insurer offers information on healthy living/wellness programs, 22% didn’t know; 58% said "yes" and 20% said "no."

• Among those with access to healthy living/wellness programs, only half use them (51%), suggesting insurers have additional opportunities to drive healthier behaviors via communications.

When asked what additional information they would find most helpful from their provider, 64% chose coupons and discounts, which was highest with the 18-to-24-year olds (72%) and lowest with 65 year-olds and over (58%); 41% said they would find information on improving the health of their family most helpful, which was highest among the three youngest age groups.

Chris McMahon is the senior editor of Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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