Demystify managed care and win over your senior community

REMEMBER THE GAME OF "GOSSIP"? one person would whisper a story to another, then the story would travel around a circle. The final person spoke aloud his version, which was always dramatically different from the first rendition.

For many older Americans, this game is being played with HMOs as the subject. How can HMOs and other managed care organizations cut through the overwhelming amount of misinformation and educate potential members about the benefits of joining a Medicare risk plan?

Know your market
Each community is different. By determining levels of affluence, whether it be financial or educational, your marketing communications staff can better understand how to disseminate information about your plan.

One survey shows that seniors living on more than $40,000 a year were less likely to read mail, and preferred telephone or Internet contact, while those living on $20,000 or less preferred personalized mailings or an in-person visit. By learning more about the specific needs of a target community, you take the first step to effectively communicating with that group.

Communicate to educate
It is time to demystify managed care. Physicians are the critical link between HMOs and the population, and seniors visit their physicians four times more often than younger people.

Consider producing a lifestyle publication targeting the 60+ population that can be distributed to doctors' offices. This way, your HMO is subtly connected to a senior's physician (someone he or she already trusts). At the same time, the publication becomes a personalized, colorful vehicle for giving seniors important information in a fun, informal way.

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