Today’s seniors are not the same as generations past. They are living longer, more independently and becoming more tech savvy. This is in part due to innovations in science and medicine, alongside advancements that are fueling a rapidly growing ecosystem designed to better support seniors. 65 is the new 45.
As the population thrives and grows, so does the Medicare market. Approximately 60 million Americans are projected to be covered by Medicare by 2020, and over 40% of beneficiaries expect to be enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in the next 10 years. Savvy health plans are quickly acknowledging this tidal shift and are acting upon it, customizing offerings to differentiate themselves and provide seniors support across all aspects of health.
With new rules allowing consumers to switch plans well into the first three months of the year, the Medicare Advantage market is becoming more competitive. For plans to attract, retain, and better manage this growing market, they must understand this increasingly diverse population and meet members’ individual needs in a meaningful way.
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It is important that healthcare executives stay in tune with elder Americans and be prepared to respond. According to the results of a new national survey of more than 1,000 adults over the age of 65, seniors are feeling younger than ever and have redefined what they perceive as being “healthy.” They are also aware of their options and are not afraid to shop around.
Here are the top five takeaways:
- Most seniors feel young at heart as approximately four in five say they feel younger than their actual age. Nearly 90% say they also feel healthier than their parents’ generation. Studies support these feelings as increased physical activity and social engagement in recent years have helped seniors stay healthy as they age.
- Health encompasses far more than counting steps. To improve quality of life, seniors are adopting a new definition of health that incorporates physical, social, emotional and financial aspects. Financial stability (94%), adequate sleep (91%), and positive relationships (90%) are most important for seniors to achieve and maintain. Managing stress, good nutrition, and then maintaining an appropriate level of physical activity followed in importance. Developing plans that incorporate and balance each of these areas of health will be critical for any insurer that wants to maintain a competitive edge.
- Seniors may shop around for coverage, with nearly six in 10 seniors agreeing that they would consider switching their current Medicare Advantage plan in the near future. A combination of low out-of-pocket costs, prescription drug coverage and in-network access to providers emerged as primary factors that could influence a plan change. Seniors also feel that insurance providers should offer programs and resources that address their total health and well-being. Yet, roughly half feel that their current plan is not offering relevant or personalized support. Innovative health plans must keep this in mind when designing and communicating benefits within their Medicare Advantage offerings. This means getting to know seniors at an individual level by leveraging all available data-not just retrospective claims data. Leveraging non-healthcare data such as purchasing data, household composition, and voting frequency will help insurance executives personalize these programs so they are more relevant and drive action.
- Seniors want the full package of support. An AARP Beyond 50 report found that three out of four people age 50 and older prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible. As aging-in-place becomes more common, health plans will need to learn how to support this trend. With innovative plan designs, such as including coverage for durable medical equipment, insurers can better support holistic health and keep seniors happier and healthier-wherever they want to spend their golden years!
- Email is king, but texting and calls are also important communication mediums for seniors. The new data also revealed how seniors like to receive communications from their health plans. Email emerged as the top preferred medium, especially among Medicare Advantage members (52%), followed by phone (automated voice or live agent) and regular mail. There is also growing interest in connecting digitally, including text messaging. Health executives need to capture and respect communication preferences for consumers to most effectively engage them, whether it is via email, digital voice, traditional mail, or a combination of multiple channels.
The results of this new survey show that seniors are far from one homogenous, technophobic group. As the baby boomer generation continues to rapidly age into Medicare, this diverse population will only continue to grow. Now is the time for health executives to start personalizing and properly communicating with seniors to ensure they are able to successfully attract and retain new Medicare Advantage members, while also keeping the seniors of America happy and healthy.
April Gill is the vice president of health plan market solutions at Welltok, a consumer health SaaS company.