Today’s Medicare marketplace is more crowded than ever. The average consumer can choose from 43 Medicare Advantage plans, an increase of more than 126% over the past decade. The competition among providers is just as fierce with more options for when and how to get care in person, virtually or at home. Studies show that consumers aren’t exactly loyal to providers, engaging with an average of four to five provider brands for their care.
In such a competitive field, any small differentiator can tip the scales. That’s where a collaborative co-marketing strategy comes in. Under a co-marketing arrangement, payers (insurers) and providers (primary care providers, clinics, hospitals and/or health systems) join forces to promote and elevate both brands in the hearts and minds of consumers. Here’s why Medicare payers and providers need to embrace co-marketing.
The Benefits of Payer/Provider Co-marketing
Co-marketing efforts can be a win for Medicare payers, providers and consumers alike. Here’s how.
Payers and providers:
At the end of the day, consumers want a seamless healthcare experience from beginning to end. They just want their health plan and provider to work easily, affordably and reliably. Co-marketing helps to create the perception of a seamless experience. The shift from patient to consumer means that beneficiaries are exerting their purchasing power like they should. They’re no longer passive patients who accept whatever they get. They’re making choices to get the coverage and care they want and deserve even if it means navigating through more options. A co-marketing plan can help inspire consumers to switch to a plan and a provider that put them first.
It’s not just consumers who appreciate the enhanced collaboration; it’s providers too. When smaller provider organizations like clinics and primary care providers see the time, effort and financial backing that a national carrier puts into a co-marketing effort, it changes their perspective of that carrier for the better. Like consumers, providers will feel seen, heard, understood and respected. They feel like they have a carrier holding their hand, empowering them and encouraging them to contribute their ideas and points of view throughout the marketing process. They know that payer has their back. A co-marketing effort won’t eliminate operational challenges, but it can foster payer/provider trust.
Co-marketing Best Practices
Payer/provider co-marketing is at its best when it is centered on the consumer, aligned across the organization and engaged at the community level. Here’s how to achieve all three.
Consumers won’t be convinced to become members or patients without knowing what’s it in for them. Exceptional co-marketing campaigns answer two questions: 1. why consumers should care about these brands and 2. why they are working together.
Consumers need to understand how their health and wellness could be improved by enrolling with a specific plan and using a certain provider. They need to imagine what it will look and feel like to have these complementary offerings in action. Payers and providers can make it concrete by explaining how, despite a chronic condition like diabetes, they improve consumers’ lives with the right care and a plan that makes managing their health simple.
Payers and providers can establish their expertise and position themselves in a humanistic way through thought leadership. Each can stay in their swim lanes yet offer a unique but compatible dimension to the topic at hand. When payers and providers outline these benefits upfront, consumers react positively.
Top-to-bottom Organizational Alignment
Strategy is often driven at the corporate level but executed at the local level. Don’t leave them out of discussions. Too often, brands forget about their local champions even when the local activations are an essential part of the strategy. Cascade the strategy down the organizational funnel, sharing the right communications at the right levels to build buy-in. This way, everyone is working toward the same goal rather than being at cross purposes with each other. With a top-down, bottom-up approach, payers and providers can streamline their efforts for maximum impact.
Community engagement activities that give brands a physical presence and a local face boost consumer trust. Outreach can happen through health fairs, community events and even social gatherings at a healthcare facility. Brands can leverage grassroots marketing to target different audiences at culturally relevant festivals, senior-friendly sporting events or causes like veteran health. The local champions become brand ambassadors who create personal, face-to-face experiences. These experiences enhance consumer trust in brands and help sway payer and provider decisions in the short and long run.
Common Co-marketing Pitfalls
No two payer/provider co-marketing campaigns are created equal. Each one depends on the organizations involved and the goals of the campaign. Still, there are certain traps that can cause the plan to crumble:
Legal and Compliance Considerations
Marketing in the healthcare space entails a lot of compliance work, especially regarding Medicare. And rightfully so. Misleading Medicare ads featuring celebrities like Joe Namath have caused confusion and chaos. According to Deft Research’s 2023 Medicare OEP and Disenrollment Prevention Study Executive Research Brief, some 20% of beneficiaries were “unwittingly switched” to a plan they didn’t expect.
Yes, there are compliance concerns with co-marketing against steering and anti-kickbacks. Yes, the rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) change from year to year. Yes, payers and providers will have tension between them, often with payers being more conservative than providers when it comes to interpreting CMS guidelines.
But despite all this, Medicare payers and providers can and should be able to navigate the red tape together. When payer and provider teams align on agreed-to rules of the road up front, they can make their brands jointly stand out from the competition. Vetting exercises with each brands’ marketing teams plus legal and compliance can help gauge both the strategy and tactics. Teams will know where they push and where they need to step back.
The Power of Partnership
Together, payers and providers can do more than they can individually. This is especially true in today’s healthcare landscape that often appears contentious thanks to rising costs along with prior-authorization and claims denials. Co-marketing efforts tell a different story, one of collaboration and cooperation with consumers at the heart.
#healthcare #collaboration #marketing