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AIM and AFLAC respond to Twitter criticism

Kim Morris | June 29, 2009

We received some recent e-mail in response to our previous negative coverage of AIM health plan marketing and so we took a quick second look to check for any new developments. It does appear that the insurance company responsible for underwriting this product is taking stronger measures to regulate its sales force and remove unapproved sales materials from the marketplace. We no longer found the type of disturbing online marketing materials that prompted the criticism at http://www.medsave.com/health-insurance-resources/AIM-health-plan-scam.htm. Ideally, the insurer would prefer to clean up its sales image and erase or bury any previously published criticism. The Internet makes the latter harder to accomplish and services like Twitter tend to make information travel farther and faster than every before. A Twitter online "conversation" has the ability to amplify a comment that users feel is worth attention throughout the community more effectively than other types of publications.

AFLAC also responded to our coverage of NAIC complaint ratios, saying that the numbers were incorrect and did not fairly represent the company's track record. The point was well made but common sense indicates that the company still has a serious issue with negative public perception. Our early reports (published before AFLAC was a household name) show that in any given year the majority of complaints we received are focused on a small number of insurance companies. The complaints remain fairly constant over the years, only the names of the insurance companies change. Although we no longer count and publish our complaint reports as we did in the 1980s and early 1990s, the principle still holds true today. A quick Google search of "AFLAC complaints" would convince any reviewer that complaints should be a concern for the insurance company. An AFLAC representative pointed out that another insurance company covered in an OnlineAdviser had a higher complaint ratio than AFLAC. This may be so, but it misses the point of our service. OnlineAdviser is certainly not akin to any comparative rating service. We respond to specific individual user questions that are not meant to be representative of the overall insurance market and we have a track record of pointing out any practice that may not be in the consumers' best interest, regardless of the underlying product. Our users tend to complain about only a small handful of insurers and those tend to be the companies that get this type of negative coverage elsewhere.

In any event, we suspect that the sudden increase in company response is tied to our recent activity on Twitter..com that seems to be a popular marketing media for AFLAC and AIM health plan agents. It is not to MedSave.com's advantage to post negative press to any health insurance company since we achieve far better results by promoting solid health plan solutions rather than by casting stones on the few shady operations. Solving our nation's health care crisis requires a call to action; creating a paralyzing fear of insurance certainly does not help. Overall, we reaffirm our observation that the overwhelming number of health insurance companies act honorably in interactions with the public. Unfortunately we still can not say the same about commission-based health insurance agents. The direct sales method used by both of these companies leaves an opening for sales and marketing abuses. Twitter users demonstrate undertanding of social media posters' motivations and this forms the ultimate regulatory force in social media marketing with health insurance just as with every other consumer product.

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