When the Supreme Court made the landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriages across all 50 states in Obergefell v. Hodges, they also took a great step forward in ensuring equal access to healthcare coverage. Prior to the SCOTUS ruling, in order for same-sex couples to secure employer-sponsored health insurance for a partner or spouse (in states that did not recognize same-sex marriage), they had to qualify under domestic partner coverage. However, only 39% of companies providing health insurance to their employees also offered partnership benefits. 1 In addition, the process to establish domestic partner status was often lengthy and complicated. As a result, same-sex couples were less likely to share employer-based health insurance coverage than opposite sex couples.
Prominent physician’s groups agree2 that this ruling will have an overall positive effect on the general health of the population. In addition, we should see an increase in the number of couples obtaining health insurance jointly either through an employer or the exchange.
What does this mean for health insurers? As I wrote in my earlier article, now is a crucial time to proactively reach out this audience. According to a study by Harris Interactive, 71% of LGBT adults said they would be more loyal to a brand they perceived to be supportive of the LGBT community, even if another brand had a lower price.3 This means it is not only necessary to inform LGBT members and prospective customers and about health insurance, but to create a supportive environment to earn their confidence and loyalty. As health insurance becomes more commoditized, it is increasingly important for insurers to differentiate themselves.
One great example of a group that has done this well is the travel industry. For years, they have focused a part of their marketing efforts on gay-friendly travel, catering to LGBT vacationers. This includes having a launch page specifically geared towards the LGBT community such as Expedia’s.
Following in the footsteps of the travel industry, at a minimum insurance companies should develop a microsite with curated content and imagery focused on same-sex couples. This site could provide information for same-sex couples who may have questions regarding what the recent SCOTUS ruling means for them, especially if they are currently covered under a domestic partner status. Taking this a step further, this site might also incorporate LGBT community events that the insurer participates in, helping to foster trust and loyalty. In addition, insurance companies can also carry this concept to other areas as well; for example, through the purchase and enroll step, or member area to provide an experience for the user that is both seamless and friendly.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage offers an opportune moment for health insurance companies to reach out to the LGBT community. By providing an experience that makes members and shoppers feel welcomed and valued, insurance companies have an opportunity to build a long-term, loyal customer base.