In the healthcare industry, supplemental benefits in a health insurance plan go above and beyond standard health insurance policies. Supplemental benefits can help consumers pay for out-of-pocket expenses that their regular insurance doesn’t cover, lowering the long-term costs of healthcare by supporting healthy habits and increasing health plan member engagement.
To learn more about the value of supplemental benefit offerings and InComm Healthcare’s OTC Network, PaymentsJournal sat down with Dave Etling, SVP and GM at InComm Healthcare, and Tim Sloane, VP of Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group.
Breaking Down Misconceptions about Medicare Subscribers
According to the Center for Medicare Services, around 60 million Americans are currently enrolled in Medicare. That’s more than 18% of the U.S. population. This enrollment is expected to increase to 78 million by 2030.
Because Medicare recipients are generally older adults, there is a widespread misconception that the demographic is not comfortable leveraging technology. This simply isn’t true. “They’re active online, they’re on social media, they’re leveraging mobile applications to discover items that they want to buy or compare pricing, [so] it just couldn’t be further from the truth that the Medicare audience is uncomfortable with technology,” said Etling.
InComm Payments’ 2020 Medicare Study supported Etling’s claim. Among 2,509 Medicare and Tricare beneficiaries surveyed, 85% reported they are active on social media—mostly Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Nearly every respondent reported shopping online, with 82% saying they do so frequently. Further, 83% had no trust concerns regarding e-commerce.
Why does that matter? Health plan providers tend to dismiss opportunities to target Medicare members online, despite the fact that those members are actively seeking online interactions and the ability to earn rewards. As a result, providers are missing out on the opportunities and benefits that come with engaging such customers.
“Mercator’s research supports the fact that seniors are indeed extremely active on their mobile devices and on the web. They’re as accustomed to using technology as the younger generation and are using it as broadly as the younger generation, so ignoring that [demographic] is indeed a terrible decision,” explained Sloane.
The Unbalanced Supply and Demand of Supplemental Benefit Offerings
Another prevalent finding of InComm Payments’ Medicare Study is that Medicare recipients want card-based supplemental health benefits programs, but their insurers typically don’t offer any—or promote them effectively to subscribers. In other words, there is a disconnect between supply and demand of these supplemental benefit offerings.
“90% of the respondents… didn’t have a plan that provided this supplemental benefit or [they] certainly weren’t aware of it. Of that 90%, about three-quarters said they would be interested in obtaining one and it would help them achieve their health goals,” said Etling. “There’s certainly an opportunity… to engage consumers more broadly relative to making them aware that this benefit is available to them if plans are not doing so today,” he added.
InComm Healthcare’s OTC Supplemental Benefits Card
The story of InComm Healthcare’s OTC Network began about a decade ago. The network was created with the goal of removing friction from the often arduous reimbursement process Medicare members had to follow to get OTC product coverage. “They would have to do things like buy the product, take a picture of the receipt, [and] mail it to their health plan to then get reimbursed their $14.80,” said Etling.
With the creation of the OTC Network, InComm Healthcare was able to put benefit dollars onto its OTC Supplemental Benefit Card, which works similarly to a debit card. “And instead of the consumer having to do things that were rather asinine and inefficient, like mailing in receipts, [they are] able to put that value on the card and authenticate that spend in real time at the point of sale,” he added.
With more than 65,000 retail locations in InComm Payments’ network, members can use their OTC cards to purchase thousands of eligible products. The OTC Network also has multi-wallet capabilities that enable health plans to manage multiple different benefit programs on the same card.
“That, essentially, is the genesis of the OTC Network, the problem we are solving, and some of the new innovative ways that we’re leveraging this network and multi-wallet technology to continue to improve outcomes for members and… adding more utility for the OTC network, which ultimately is leading to higher member experiences or satisfaction ratings,” Etling explained.
For Providers, Supplemental Benefits Translate to Higher Customer Ratings
Beyond providing value to the subscriber alone, supplemental benefits also allow healthcare providers to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. “Engaging consumers with the [supplemental] benefits that you can offer them and making it easy for them to access those benefits are certainly going to help with that customer experience… improving star ratings or keeping [them] where they’re at as more and more competition is entering the marketplace,” said Etling.
Sloane agreed, noting that “it’s hard to imagine ratings aren’t going to go up with a broader set of solutions available to the consumer, and making it easier for the consumer to get those solutions [is] going to be a home run.”
It’s time to do away with the myth that the Medicare demographic is uncomfortable with technology. Rather, healthcare providers and retailers can be confident that customers will find the value in having convenient access to OTC products and supplemental benefits. Adopting such offerings is a win-win for everyone involved.