Beginning January 15th, the Biden Administration required health insurers to cover the costs of up to 8 at-home COVID-19 tests per month for their privately insured members. This not only helps reduce or eliminate up-front costs of Americans seeking an at-home solution to COVID-19 testing, but it also helps dull the pain points of finding testing facilities when needed.
The mandate, which quickly became breaking news, was a welcome announcement for health care consumers, but it threatened to strain insurers who were given official notice just days prior to its effective date. In the last two weeks, we’ve heard from many of our healthcare partners about the challenges this presents during an already busy season. Plans found themselves in a difficult position needing to communicate as quickly and accurately as possible while maintaining their current programs and managing their open enrollment period (OEP).
Easy Rapid Roll-out Practices for Your Members and Organization
Between call-center re-routes, at-home test kit availabilities, and managing the member experience, staying agile after this announcement can become both overwhelming and costly. This is not the time to trial and error communication with your populations.
Relying on the methods you have already been using for member communication is your best bet in yet another unpredictable turn during the pandemic, and there are several distinct best practices plans can follow to handle unexpected situations like this as they arise.
To start, use the quickest and most impactful means of communication with your members first. 3.8 billion people own a smart phone and SMS is a reliable source of fast communication. If that line of communication is already set up with your population, connecting them with resources after any sudden event will be much simpler. The minimum data requirements we recommend for our at-home testing mandate outreach or similar programs are the member’s first and last name, date of birth, mobile phone number, and address.
Channels like SMS are ideal for reaching consumers quickly but implementing a multi-channel approach by including email and even IVR channels is an option, too. For example, using a consumer’s preferred method of outreach, like IVR, to authenticate mobile numbers and direct them to two-way automated workflows can be an effective tool, allowing your organization to provide cost saving information within hours while still utilizing all lines of preferred communication.
Whatever the channels you choose, we recommend providing comprehensive education and resources by redirecting consumers to trusted information sources, such as an interactive FAQs page or links to valuable sites like USPS How to find a test site. This reduces the chance of them calling their plan for information that is thorough and easily accessible elsewhere. In the case of this at-home test mandate, providing them information on their pharmacy or a link to all in-network pharmacies near them can also help the plan save money on reimbursement costs.
Orchestrating this outreach early and getting in front of the member with the correct messaging before they reach out to your call centers can help mitigate costs in any situation, but it can be especially helpful after the at-home mandate announcement. It will not only help ease the influx of calls to a costly call center, but it will also lead your membership to the resources they need to secure their at-home tests at a more reasonable cost to the plan.
Another rapid roll-out best practice we recommend is partnering with a solution provider which has the technology in place to quickly deploy two-way messaging at scale. The ability to have bi-directional conversations to address the specific questions of each member individually (ideally through natural language understanding technology) will significantly improve the efficacy of your program. And with this partnership in place, you won’t need to focus on setting up member communications in the middle of figuring out execution. You can lean on your solution provider to build and deploy the program for you.
The most important factor, however, is acting quickly. If your outreach provider has contingencies in place for last-minute events like this, they will most likely be able to stand up a solution that has all our best practice elements included in a timeframe of two to three weeks or less.
How Does This Fit Into the Member Journey?
Though communication surrounding this mandate is trickier than other rapid responses, swift messaging to member populations is still essential. When a health plan reacts quickly to market changes and provides helpful information to ease members and patients through a complicated and cumbersome process, they become trusted partners throughout that member’s journey. The right communications from a trusted authority, reduce the complexity this new mandate has presented, and others to come, and will prevent misinformation that members face. If your organization has a communications partner with experience standing up programs quickly, then it can feel easier on the member to get common questions answered, find vaccine sites, and submit claims, etc. – further reducing barriers to crucial and accurate information.
And with CAHPS right around the corner, what better timing to solidify that spot as your member’s trusted source of information that is preventative and timely? Further strengthening trusted relationship between plan and member.
Understanding your membership and leaning on the information you have, such as their preferred language, the channels your healthcare consumers use, and the right contact information will go far when your organization needs to pivot and deploy information timely and most efficiently.
COVID-19 Home Test Coverage Takeaways
If your organization is currently using SMS to outreach to your populations, you are in the perfect position to outreach quickly and at scale, and you only have to switch out standard messaging with the right messaging for the moment. An easy framework for rapid rollout solutions your organization has at the ready, is a sure-fire way to communicate all new breaking information.
Then working with your solution provider to craft the perfect messaging or leaning on your solution provider’s behavior science technology will impact how swiftly your organization can easily respond in moments when messaging is not able to take the priority–like we saw just a few weeks ago many other times throughout the pandemic. The focus can remain on execution while your automated solution provides your membership with what they need to feel like they can come to you for the most reliable trusted resources at any time.