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What Health Plan Marketing Pros Don’t Know About Working with Vendors Can Hurt them

June 6th, 2017 | by Doug Pray

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As health plans race to create and distribute Calendar Year 2018 Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC) Packages, most member marketing teams know time is of the essence. But, many aren’t aware of a few particular areas that could potentially hang them up, which is the last thing they want to happen when they’re under the gun.

Even if the health plan has ironclad policies and streamlined procedures, working with multiple outside vendors can pose risks. Each vendor operates according to its own procedures and its own timeline, and vendors caution that meeting plan deadlines is dependent on other vendors’ timely and accurate deliverables. Like a relay race, every time materials change hands, there’s a chance the baton will be fumbled or dropped. And, the more vendors that are involved in the materials creation and fulfillment process, the more the risk of delays and errors increases.

In the case of working with vendors, what health plans don’t know absolutely can hurt them, in the form of CMS sanctions and penalties, and damaged star ratings. Below are four areas of the materials creation process that can become pitfalls if health plans aren’t aware of how to best manage them.

  1. Foreign Language Translations

We call the conventional method of managing translations a “throw-it-over-the-fence” model. The health plan gives a translation company an English document to translate, the translation company does its work and then sends the translated document back to the health plan with an attestation of accuracy to the English source material. Though this is a model that is used for most translation tasks today, there are several reasons this method could cause problems for a health plan.

First, plan project managers don’t have access to the processes and protocols the translation company is following internally, so they can’t diagnose potential timeline or workflow challenges. The traditional approach can also take longer to produce these critical foreign language documents. Because translated versions of English materials are typically requested only after the English language versions are approved, a couple of extra weeks may be tacked onto the AEP materials creation timeline. And if there are changes made to the English documents after initial approval, it can be difficult for project managers to ensure that revisions to the English document versions are captured and accurately updated in each of the translated versions.

  1. Document Setup According to Print Specs

We’ve spoken to many health plans that have said they delivered files to their printer, only to be told that the setup was incorrect and they needed to reformat or re-output each of the documents before printing. Because this work can be extensive, some health plans have actually missed their print deadlines and had to pay additional fees for rush printing and expedited postage to get their materials to members in time.

What many health plan marketing professionals don’t know is that printers must be extremely particular in putting together specifications for the print job. Whether printing digital or offset, printers try to minimize their paper usage, so it’s critical that health plans format electronic files to match the page size, printing inks and page layout according to the printer’s guidelines and press specifications. The team managing the materials layout and formatting must be crystal clear on the printer’s specifications and work closely with the printer to ensure the job will be done correctly and on time.

  1. Overpaying for Postage

After the ANOC or New Member Post Enrollment materials are printed and assembled into kits, they must be mailed. But many health plans miss the mark when it comes to managing postage in the most cost-efficient manner. Most plans will simply accept the postage rates recommended by their fulfillment vendor, without really understanding the complexities or USPS mail classifications. And since postage is typically just a pass-through cost, the mailing house may not be particularly motivated to research and recommend the most optimized postage option for each package.

The USPS Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) is a large, complex, and difficult-to-understand document that explains dimensional weight, print areas, classifications of mail and numerous other factors that determine the cost of postage. It takes a real expert to understand these guidelines and be able to recommend printing and mailing options to keep postage costs as low as possible. If the fulfillment vendor does not have an intimate knowledge of the DMM and a solid relationship with their local USPS representative, plans can spend tens of thousands of dollars extra on postage.

  1. Section 508 Compliance

Any time plans prepare an electronic document that will be posted online or distributed via e-mail, whether it’s an internal document or an external document, they need to meet current Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act standards. Failing to meet these requirements can result in fines and sanctions from CMS. Though most plan compliance and marketing professionals understand the basics of Section 508, many are not up to date with the specific requirements of the recent 508 Standards Refresh.

In essence, the newly introduced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Final Standards and Guidelines require that plans’ websites, documents and media, blog posts and social media sites support accessibility for people with disabilities within very specific technical and operational criteria, and incorporates WCAG 2.0 guidelines by reference. In addition to rules about web content, the 508 Refresh specifies how operating systems, software development toolkits, and software applications (apps) should interact with assistive technology. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those pertaining to vision, hearing, color perception, speech, cognition, manual dexterity and reach. Final compliance with the Section 508 Refresh is not required until January 18, 2018, but all ICT that is published on or after March 20, 2017, should be compliant as per the new standards.

These are just a few of the areas that frequently cause problems for health plan marketing teams trying to get their member materials out on time and in compliance. Our team at Cody has worked through countless issues around partnering with vendors and managing the challenges that come with handing off materials during the creation process. We knew there had to be a better, easier way for health plans, which is why we developed CodyPrint®.

CodyPrint helps alleviate or eliminate the above vendor hand-off challenges through:

  • Parallel Translation Services: A new methodology for translating member communications that gives projects managers peace of mind by providing visibility to the translation process, minimizing production timelines, and eliminating the iterative processes that increase the opportunity for errors.
  • Print & Fulfillment Services: With a unique model that offers a centralized, single-source solution for document creation, composition, prepress, proofing and quality control functions – along with distributed printing, assembly and mailing operations, we provide health plans the control and oversight they need to cost-effectively and accurately manage critical compliance communications. This means your documents will be set up according to the printer’s specs the first time around. We’ll also analyze postage options and recommend materials layout and setup to optimize your postage rates.
  • 508 Remediation Services: We efficiently and cost-effectively create WCAG 2.0 Section 508-compliant PDFs from your plan documents – including ANOCs, EOCs, Formulary, Pharmacy and Provider Directories, Summary of Benefits and Enrollment Forms – that exceed existing 508 standards and are compliant with the ICT Final Rule requirements.

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” And when it comes to producing member materials, what you don’t know can hurt you. With CodyPrint, health plans gain advocates and experts looking out for their best interests. Contact us today for a consultation.


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