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While public health care policy and the factors that influence consumer preference and purchasing decisions about health insurance are rapidly shifting, the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study finds that brand equity remains strong among the top-ranked health insurers.
According to a release, EQ is an annual study that measures the perceptions of 38,500+ American consumers about more than 1,500 lifestyle, product, and service brands.
As the 2014 deadline inches closer for implementation of a number of the health insurance reforms in the federal Accountable Care Act, brand equity has become an important new battleground for health insurers. Health insurers are preparing to compete in new ways to attract a growing number of consumers, who are playing a more influential role in their own health insurance decisions.
"The definition of consumer is 'one that consumes'," says Debra Richman, Senior Vice President of Healthcare Business Development & Strategy at Harris Interactive, "More than ever before, consumers are paying increased attention to their health care options and selecting products and services they prefer to consume. As a result, positive brand recognition has become and will increasingly be critically important."
The evolving importance of consumers requires that insurers understand how their customers make health care choices and what expectations they will have of their health insurers, both when choosing a health plan and, importantly, when choosing to remain with a health plan. Richman notes, "Consumer behavior in health care is beginning to mirror how consumers behave when making other purchasing decisions, whether for consumer goods or financial services. Consumers are evaluating brand equity, user experience, convenience, and product or service value."
Among the ten competitive brands included in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend study, Blue Cross Blue Shield emerges as the top-ranked health insurer. This is the third consecutive year Blue Cross Blue Shield has earned the Health Insurance Brand of the Year accolade. UnitedHealthcare places second and regional insurer, HealthNet, secures third place in this consumer-choice study.
"Brand reputation is now one of the key criteria when selecting a health plan--this is especially important in a market where benefits and costs may be similar, which will definitely be the case in an insurance-exchange environment. Those companies with strong brand equity will be well-positioned to take advantage of such market changes and successfully differentiate themselves among competitors," Richman concludes.
Harris Interactive is a custom and multi-client market research firms.
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