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Success Speaks: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Talks Meeting Member Demands in Healthcare

success story healthcare payments

When looking for a payments success story in the world of healthcare, you’d be wise to turn your attention to the Great Lakes and the work done by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS MI). In a recent webinar with AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) and ACI, Faran Farooqi, Strategic Capability Implementation and Operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, shared his insights into how his organization addressed the challenges of today to deliver a great payments experience for their members.

 

The Health Insurance Payments Landscape

BCBS MI was facing challenges that almost all insurers face: how to satisfy a wide array of members, including Medicaid and Medicare patients, while also meeting a new host of challenges presented by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

This was pushed even further by a surprising “competitor” of sorts. “We had very limited payment functions and ways members could engage us in comparison to the online experience a typical retail member has today, for example with Amazon.com,” said Farooqi. “It was a really big transition for us to explore member options to help bridge that experience they were accustomed to.”

 

Driving Member Satisfaction with Payments

Is it fair to compare the likes of Amazon to health insurers? Maybe not, but consumers are doing it daily, forcing all companies to re-examine their billing and payment processes. It had become clear to Farooqi that meeting member expectations meant delivering an experience on par with that of a top eCommerce business. This is a lesson that all health insurance providers should immediately begin taking to heart.

Why? Because when it comes to member satisfaction, billing and payments has proven to raise member satisfaction by 25%.*

The bad news is that health plan members report that the member experience did not improve over the past year. Just as troubling is the news that more than 40% of members report their health plan did not provide a good payments experience in customer service, communication, premiums, rates and fees.* This can be blamed on many things, including complacency, but as Farooqi explained, consumer expectations have shifted dramatically thanks to the payment experiences offered by top companies like Amazon.

The good news is that BCBS MI provides invaluable lessons on how healthcare insurance providers can adapt and win in this new payments ecosystem.

 

Favorite Ways to Pay

So what are the payment options that members are clamoring for? Here are a few you should consider.

Mobile
In today’s world, mobile is king. The ability to quickly and easily pay bills or receive messages from a device that’s seemingly always (literally) at our sides is extremely powerful. This type of convenience most closely mirrors that of eCommerce, providing an experience consumers love and expect from all industries.

Mobile billing and payment options also heighten the impact of other conveniences, such as consolidated billing and tailored messaging. Imagine receiving your dental and medical bill in one statement, then receiving a text notification that the bill is either due or has been paid. You think members might like never having to pay a late fee? We bet your bottom line would love these increased collections as well.

Recurring Payments
Set it and forget it. Five words that can mean an increase in collected revenue and satisfaction. Recurring payment options, especially recurring card payments, are in high demand and it’s easy to see why. Paying bills without physically having to remember them or click a button (or three) ensures members will always pay on time.

For health insurers, offering recurring payments that include debit card, credit card and ACH payments provides a hands-off experience that gives consumers the power to choose their favorite ways to pay.

Real-Time Payments
According to Lipis Advisors, real-time payments in healthcare will grow at more than 100% CAGR from 2018-2022. We’ve made the case for real-time payments before but it bears repeating. Members' ability to pay in real time keeps their accounts balanced and ensures they won’t suffer bounced checks or overdraft fees. There’s also the added bonus of delivering refunds or reimbursements to members in real time, which will always be a crowd pleaser.

The switch to real-time payments is a matter of when, not if. Insurance providers looking to gain an edge will be wise to begin their journey to real-time payments ASAP.

 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Builds Payments Success

So how did BCBS MI achieve their goals? First, they gathered all the stakeholders, including ACI, to create the best business case possible. “Being able to engage with both the ACI team on site and the folks that were on the phone really helped propel us in the right direction.”

With the teams aligned, it was time to get to work. “When ACI came in, they really showed us there are various ways of thinking about this (payments),” said Farooqi. “It was really brilliant how the ACI technical resources and our sales support team were all in sync in helping us craft a solution and a roadmap.”

BCBS MI first introduced guest credit and debit card payments, allowing members to pay without the burden of creating an account. With this improvement came a decrease in calls to the call center, reducing this cost for the organization.

They also optimized their bill presentment experience. Farooqi was quick to mention that by adopting the retailer mindset, the team was able to create an omni-channel platform that really took advantage of a variety of touchpoints. Not only does this improve the effectiveness of the communications, it delivers a personalized experience for members.

By the end of this undertaking, BCBS MI had gone from 8 payment options to more than 31. But most importantly, the ROI showed immediate benefits.

“Our internal investment was paid off in 10 months.”

Farooqi already has his sights set on the future, with strategies to implement payment options through alternative payment providers including Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple Pay.

 

Build Your Strategy Today

With the 2019 enrollment season quickly approaching, the time is now to begin re-examining your billing and payment processes and start building your strategy to increase member satisfaction. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an ACI payments expert who can help you expand your offerings and enrollments.

To learn more, view the on-demand webinar.

 

*Third party survey of ACI clients. Forrester Research, Inc. “The US Health Insurance Customer Experience Index, 2017”, September 27, 2017.