The Morning Consult, May 20, 2014
As the health insurance industry increasingly looks to market directly to consumers for new revenue, legacy brand challenges remain. The words “greedy”, “money”, “expensive”, and “profit” dominated voter responses when asked to identify what comes to mind when you think of health insurance companies.
This puts insurers in a precarious position with respect to the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges should health plans choose to raise premiums next year during open enrollment. Brand connotations will also impact investment decisions as some insurers look to acquire hospitals and physician practices or diversify into consumer-facing health IT products. The following word clouds illustrate the 100 most frequently given responses.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of health insurance companies?
ARE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES LOSING THEIR INNOVATION BRANDING?
In a year defined by mergers and acquisitions, the pharmaceutical industry increasingly faces a public branding challenge. The words “greedy”, “money”, “expensive”, and “profit” are seen as most identifiable with pharmaceutical drug companies.
Notably absent from responses is the word “innovation”. The scientific breakthroughs of the blockbuster drug era had at one time placed the pharmaceutical industry top of mind among the most innovative industries for most Americans. As the pharmaceutical industry continues to reorganize, and in some cases relocate, it will be critical to watch if a new era of personalized medicine and drug innovation can reshape brand impressions among an aging American public.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of pharmaceutical drug companies?
MEDICAL DEVICE COMPANIES DRAW POSITIVE AND CRITICAL REVIEWS
Like other for-profit industry sectors, medical device companies draw critical reactions like “expensive” and “greedy”, but overall the industry draws the most positive praise as well with notable brand attributes like “good”, “innovative”, and “helpful”.
The positive brand attributes stand out as the medical device companies have been among the most active healthcare stakeholders in Washington with repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax on medical device revenue.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of medical device companies?
HOSPITALS STAND AT THE CROSSROADS OF “EXPENSIVE” AND “GOOD”
As health system consolidation increases, hospitals stand at crossroads with respect to brand impressions. Negative connotations like “expensive” and “money” stand in stark contrast to “good” and “necessary”.
Increased public focus on price transparency and chargemasters raises negative brand connotations. At the same time, many hospitals are looking to leverage the “good” and “caring” elements of their brands by acquiring physician practices and exploring running their own insurance products.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of hospitals?
DOCS ARE “GOOD” “CARING” AND “PROFESSIONAL” BUT MAYBE “OVERPAID”
Physicians remain widely respected with strong brand attributes. Words like “good”, “caring”, “professional” and “dedicated” stand out among a majority of positive impressions. The only negative connotations that appear among the American public include “overpaid” and “expensive”. As more and more physicians chose hospital employment over private practice, we will be watching to see if these brand attributes change or remain the same.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of doctors?
NURSES ARE THE HEALTHCARE GOLD STANDARD
Nowhere in the healthcare industry is the American public more in agreement than when it comes to nurses. There isn’t a single negative brand impression associated with nurses among the top 100 most frequent responses. The issues of being “underpaid” and “overworked” may have implications in a number of states as nursing unions pursue multiple ballot initiatives and state governments consider reforms to long standing scope of practice laws.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of nurses?
AMERICANS LOVE MEDICARE
The potency of Medicare politics is evident when you consider just how strong the brand attributions are for the program. Worlds like “necessary”, “good”, and “helpful” overshadow even the faintest recognition that the program may be “underfunded”. If Washington is to take on Medicare reform in earnest, a substantial education and branding effort will be required to convince Americans that the program needs to be changed.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of Medicare?
MEDICAID SEEN AS NEEDED BUT DRAWS MIXED REVIEWS
The American public overwhelmingly identifies Medicaid as being “needed” and “good”, but compared to Medicare, more negative connotations like “fraud”, “wasteful”, and “abused” are registered. This in part colors the ongoing state debates over whether to expand the Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act.
In a word or two, could you please tell me what comes to mind when you think of Medicaid?