Millennials and the Affordable Care Act

We’re well into our second year of the Affordable Care Act which has launched a new unprecedented era for individual health insurance. It represents a major shift in marketing and communications strategy, as we move primarily from a B2B model to B2C.

For the first time in many places, there is direct competition among providers, and companies that were once in a relatively non-competitive environment now face the melee of selling directly to consumers. Although this may not be new ground in the managed care field, many payors are for the first time facing the age-old balance between low prices and value in the direct to consumer world.

First-time buyers are crucial to the post-ACA market financially. Younger, healthier consumers are necessary to balance out the claims from the 50 plus, less healthy subscribers. Grabbing those consumers as they age out of their parents’ plans on the 26th birthday is a greater challenge than many marketers first expected. The millennial market is very different. Fear doesn’t work with this crowd, they are the young invincibles. The pitch has to include the concept of wellness—NOW.

Successful strategies are embracing healthy lifestyle activities that skew younger, instead of simply slashing premiums. Demonstrating immediate value is very important, as opposed to say, offering long-term security. This is a lifestyle sell—not one about the benefits of health insurance, which is essentially mandated.

But enhanced value is not enough for millennials, who are very brand-conscious—that’s the way they came up, thanks to Nike, Apple and Gatorade, among other very successful brand influencers. The insurance provider needs to build a clean, functional, streamlined, mobile/social friendly website that has more than a little flair. And advertising needs to be re-targeted to the right places, not just conventional broadcast when everyone is watching Netflix, but to Pandora and social sites like Instagram and YouTube.

Millennials tend to do their research through search engines from their smartphones, use videos on Youtube as help in their research, nearby healthcare providers is important to them, and they are more likely to make the purchase online.

The challenge is also about lasting relevance, because today’s millennials are tomorrow’s boomers.