Health Insurance Impressions

Using social listening to learn about American impressions on health insurance

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst

Most people in the United States rely on private health insurance provided by their employers. To continue our healthcare-related social listening research, let’s look at how consumers talk about their insurance providers using Infegy’s social listening dataset. Social listening data can be a crucial tool for large insurance companies, patient advocates, and medical providers to understand better how US healthcare is viewed directly by its patients. We’ll analyze the volatile post volume pattern associated with negative insurance experiences, positive and negative topics related to insurance conversation, and a high-level sentimental overview of how US patients view their health insurance providers.

Post volume reflects volatile patterns with high exposure

We'll begin our examination of public attitudes toward health insurance by analyzing trends in social media post volumes. Our previous work on trend analysis often revealed steady growth or shrinkage patterns, which typically tell a more gradual story about changing public perception. However, in the case of health insurance, the second half of our date framing displays a more volatile, erratic pattern—a stark contrast to the smooth trends we usually observe in more general subjects that stabilize over time.

We dove into each spike in post volume to reveal the main driver of this volatility: a surge in frustrated and viral posts about insurance companies denying coverage to individuals. Health insurance social media strategists must recognize that such negative sentiment is prevalent and potent, particularly when it goes viral. Health insurance is like the weather - you might get a few posts around sunshine on lovely days, but that volume doesn't compare to what you would see if a tornado runs through town. Health insurance social strategists need to be aware that this type of negativity is out there and be able to react to it on a strategic level.

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Figure 1: Post volume attributed to US health insurance (April 2021 through April 2024); Infegy Social Dataset.

Topics to analyze customer complaints and compliments

Now that we’ve looked at trend-based volatility, let’s take a look at the underlying topics that people discuss when talking about health insurance. As we mentioned before, a huge percentage (although not all) of this underlying conversation is negative.

Negative topics

On the negative end, let's dive into people's main pain points with health insurance. In Figure 2, you see a general overview of what patients complain about the most - specifically employer-based coverage (“job”), financial cost (“bill”), and coverage networks (“cover,” “coverage). These have been complaints surrounding the healthcare system in the United States for a long time - precisely the structure issues associated with tying health insurance to employment along with narrow networks and income repayment plans. A considerable percentage of these negative topics end up being financial-related. This elevated percentage speaks volumes about the financial stress that patients go through when navigating the US healthcare system, in addition to whatever underlying health conditions they are also navigating.

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Figure 2: Negative Topics attributed to US health insurance (April 2021 through April 2024); Infegy Social dataset.

Positive topics

Although we’ve spent our time discussing the negative conversations about health insurance in the United States, there is a significant positive share of the conversation (35% positivity). We found a high level of discussions around people looking for advice about health insurance (“appreciated,” “recommendations,” “suggestions”) as well as people looking for travel insurance-related options (“travel,” “visa,” “UK”). The travel bit makes sense - people often go for that type of coverage for a short period (i.e., a two-week trip), and the coverage options are highly competitive, with different providers offering different options.

We also saw a lot of overlap between insurance-related conversations and investment-related topics (“investment,” “bonus”). This overlap also makes a great deal of sense—people talking about insurance coverage (in a positive sense) are more likely to have better healthcare options through their employer and, thus, are more likely to talk about those options positively. These conversations are much different than the coverage denial conversations we discussed above.

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Figure 3: Positive Topics attributed to US health insurance (April 2021 through April 2024); Infegy Social Dataset.

Comparing companies' brand reputation

We’ll wrap up our discussion about health insurance providers with a brief overview of an aggregate view of those providers themselves. To do this, we did Entity searches for each of the five largest insurance providers in the United States. Entity searches use Infegy’s named entity recognition to isolate conversations about products or brands without needing to search each topic encompassing the brand. We found a wide-ranging sentimental dispersion between large healthcare providers. Kaiser won the race both on a positivity and passion score. This high social sentiment score matches their extremely high patient ratings and popularity over the last several years. We saw UnitedHealth Group achieve the lowest passion and positivity rating on the negative end. This negativity also makes sense: UnitedHealthcare experienced a massive cyberattack in the last few weeks, compromising millions of private billing records.

As a brand strategist, it’s essential to consider your company’s reputation when crafting a path forward. These broad-stroke analytical techniques can help you check the pulse of your brand or company before you make a mistake.

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Figure 4: Comparing sentiment, passion, and volume across major national insurance carriers (April 2021 through April 2024); Infegy Social Dataset.

Takeaways for your brand

People talk about their experiences with their health insurance company daily, and social listening platforms, like Infegy, collect much of that conversation. Social brand strategists and insurance companies should use social listening data better to understand the conversation's positive and negative intricacies online. Understanding this conversation will make them (or you) make the decisions that guide brands to the proper outcomes and help these brands avoid decisions that cause damage.

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