Where there is a problem with health insurance companies in corona times

Frankfurt In the corona crisis, health insurance companies dig deep into their pockets. Massive corona tests, elaborate treatments, bonus payments for intensive care beds: For the clinical treatment of corona infected people alone, the health insurance companies expect costs of 1.3 billion euros. But despite the enormous financial expenditure, many customers only give the cash registers a mediocre certificate.

Almost half of the insured would have liked to be actively addressed and advised during the corona crisis. In the future, more than 66 percent want more active communication, preferably digitally or by telephone. This emerges from a study by the business consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on the subject of health insurance and the future according to Covid-19, which is available in advance from the Handelsblatt.

“We were surprised at how strongly insured people want health insurers to play a stronger role in their health,” said Nicolas Busch, co-author of the study. Traditionally, this is not the job of the insurers, but the doctors in Germany. But apparently the health system has not been able to solve the problems of many insured persons with questions about Corona satisfactorily.

Many insured would have preferred that the health insurance companies would speak to them actively. “The health insurers should obviously change to a preventive supporter of the insured according to the wishes of the customers – and also go more digital ways.”

The corona crisis could thus also give digital health a boost. Because the digital contact via app and website between insured persons and health insurers has risen sharply in the corona crisis – and many insured persons found digital communication to be effective, according to the study.

In international comparison, Germany is still lagging behind in the digitization of healthcare. “If you compare the level of maturity of the health insurance companies with other industries such as online banking, then providers are not yet where you can get in many areas.”

The health insurance companies should therefore professionalize their digital channels and develop from purely payers to “service and technology companies”, recommend the authors of the study, for which around 1,500 insured persons in Germany were surveyed online. The prevailing system of organizing health insurance along cost types, central functions and specialist centers had reached its limits in many places.

Many patients shy away from visiting the doctor

For example, many patients would have refrained from visiting a doctor for fear of Corona. A third of the insured had canceled or postponed treatments, including for joint and back diseases, but also examinations for heart problems. However, the postponement or cancellation would have made almost 30 percent of the respondents feel worse, so the treatment would actually have been medically necessary, the study says.

The consultants are certain that an active approach by the health insurance to the insured could have created great benefits for the customers. The health insurance companies could have indicated alternative treatment options or informed about the risk of infection.

Against this background, BCG advises on the expansion of telemedicine. Even before the corona crisis, this was a growth area. However, there was even greater demand for this service during the pandemic: 70 percent of those surveyed who used telemedicine services in the corona crisis had used it for the first time, the study says.

The experiences with the doctors are also positive. Around 5,000 medical practices have registered for telemedicine software for the first time – and at 26 percent, twice as many want to continue using the technology as before the crisis.

The advice of the consultants is clear in this respect: Health insurance companies would have to offer more telemedicine in order to differentiate themselves: 58 percent of the insured persons surveyed would even change their health insurance company in order to be able to use the online treatment.

So far, however, the structures and offers of the cash registers have been completely different. “Many large replacement cash registers still maintain between 250 and 400 stationary branch offices in the area, with some AOK cash registers the regional density is sometimes even higher,” says Matthias Becker, the second BCG author of the study in addition to Busch.

But the survey had made it clear that only seven percent of the insured will view the branches primarily as the most important contact point in the future. Instead, they wanted insurers to speak to them more over the phone and over the Internet. “Customers will use the classic offers less and less.”

Against this background, the experts predict a fundamental change for the health insurance companies. “The pressure is great that health insurers will change over the next few years,” predicts Busch. “I believe that statutory health insurance will face a drastic change in the next three to five years. The pace of the conversion will accelerate significantly. “

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