The health insurance exchanges are coming. Is your brand ready?

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has been changing the healthcare landscape since it was first passed in March 2010. Now that the legislation, or at least most of it, has been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional, there will be a game changer in healthcare: exchanges. Whether enacted by the individual states or the federal government, healthcare exchanges will begin by the year 2014.

An “exchange” is a marketplace. As part of PPACA, exchanges will be designed so that individuals and small business owners can purchase plans that provide options based on price and quality of care. For consumers they guarantee coverage and the ability to opt in and out of plans. For insurers, however, it means being thrust into an undifferentiated arena where consumers will evaluate you on price—imagine deciding between health insurers on or

Luckily for them, health insurers have roughly 12-18 months to figure out how to keep their current customers and gain new ones. If they want to do so successfully, they will need to evolve from being historically B2B to fully embracing the B2C model. In other words, they need to put the customer first now that he or she is part of the equation. Those brands that can deliver simple, meaningful and intuitive experiences across all the customer touchpoints will come out on top.

Jeff Gregoire, former CIO of Dell Computers said, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” The C-suite of B2C companies get it, and now health insurers need to follow suit.

A couple of healthcare insurers already have.

Aetna came to us because they knew they needed to evolve and build a distinctive brand promise with relevance and credibility. Now, their brand evolution into a customer-friendly, health-solutions company has been realized. They were able to successfully move the needle in an industry that is notoriously known for thinking about the customer last. Siegel+Gale continues to partner with Aetna on implementation and rollout, providing multimedia tools and resources as well as training and support on brand architecture.

So, how can you get there? Develop a customer-centric strategy that focuses on not just improving brand experiences, but creating innovative ways to surprise and delight your customers. Then continue to deliver at every stage of the customer journey.

When communications and interactions are clear, personalized, honest and useful, consumers will remember your brand and the value you bring, not just how much you cost.

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