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How health plans should communicate with members about COVID-19

    You are probably receiving “how we’re responding to COVID-19” emails from every organization you have ever given your email address to. Your members are also receiving this barrage of communication.

    During this stressful time, it is more important than ever to make sure plan communications about coronavirus are clear, credible, and comprehensive so members see your messages in the flood of information they’re receiving.


    Plans are making their materials as clear as possible by including FAQs, creating a single landing page for all coronavirus updates, and making resources easy to find on their website.

    Plans must make the wording equally clear. For example, “Check for in-network telemedicine providers in your plan portal” could be “Click here to see a doctor virtually” or “If I’m on a HDHP, what will be my cost-sharing for a coronavirus diagnostic test?” could be “Is my coronavirus test covered?”

    Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has an option at the top of their coronavirus materials that members can click to have all the information translated into Spanish.

    Blue Shield of California features three key top-of-mind issues for members on their home page: information on coronavirus, virtual visit access, and how to enroll in insurance. It is especially effective because the member doesn’t need to log in to the portal or even scroll down to see all of these options.

    Oscar Health has a coronavirus risk assessment pop-up on their website to triage members and non-members based on their symptoms. Oscar is then able to recommend only the resources most relevant to the respondent.

    Washington State Health Care Authority created a simple one-pager with frequently asked questions tailored to just Medicaid (Apple Health) members. It includes phone numbers for all the managed care plans that a Medicaid member in Washington could have.


    Plans (especially provider-sponsored plans) recognize that they are not the most trusted source for clinical information so they are leaning on their providers’ clinical instead.

    Geisinger Health Plan allows members to sign up for subsequent coronavirus updates with provider-backed clinical information. Members who want more frequent emails from their health plan can self-select into the program. As a bonus, Geisinger now has accurate member email addresses.

    Kaiser Permanente strengthens their brand not only as an integrated network but also as a community partner when they contribute $1 million to 10 public health organizations and collaborate with the CDC Foundation.

    Sharp Health Plan shares infographics and videos on coronavirus to provide a variety of mediums that members can engage with. They save both time and energy, while also increasing credibility, by including videos from other organizations (like the CDC).


    The coronavirus pandemic has wide-reaching and long-lasting implications that impact all aspects of their members’ lives; therefore plans can’t address only coronavirus testing and care in their communications. Some plans are offering increased support for behavioral health and social needs due to the coronavirus outbreak.

    CareSource is preparing 50,400 meals with The Foodbank, Inc. to be distributed to seniors in need. In doing so, they communicate to Medicare Advantage members that they are willing to support them above and beyond covering tests or prescriptions.

    Cigna is creating a second customer service phone line to address the increase in member questions. They are also offering webinars and tools on stress management to help members during this difficult time.

    L.A. Care shows that they know and care about their member population by linking to resources for food banks, financial assistance, and unemployment benefits on the same page as all their other coronavirus resources.

    Key takeaways for your own communication strategy

    As you consider how best to craft your communications to your members and the community, consider the following:

    1. Feature coronavirus front and center. Keep your coronavirus resources on the front page of your website if possible, and definitely not behind a portal log-in, so that the information is accessible for members and the community.

    2. Use many different channels to disseminate information. Beyond informational pages on health plan websites, consider pushing messages through direct email, press releases, YouTube videos, podcasts, and social media posts.

    3. Address the most worrisome member questions. Common FAQs may include:
      1. Who should get tested?
      2. Where can I go to get tested?
      3. Are COVID-19 tests and virtual visits covered?
      4. What’s the best way to protect yourself?
    4. Keep up with increased call volumes. You can support your customer service representatives as they telework or even follow what most airlines are doing now and allow members to submit tickets on your website for anything that is not urgent, and promise to respond by email in the next couple of weeks.

    5. Equip internal staff to deliver consistent messages. For those that will frequently interact with members, provide staff with up-to-date talking points about organizational policies and procedures.

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