Connecture, Inc., the leading provider of Web-based information systems used to create health insurance marketplaces and exchanges, shared the results of a survey of 1,285 Americans designed to gauge their views on health insurance and how it is purchased. Specifically, the survey explored what exchanges must address to be effective and ensure that the experience of users is a pleasant and comfortable one. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates the use of state-based health insurance exchanges by January 2014.
Some of the most interesting points confirmed by the survey findings include:
In general, Americans are not familiar with the online health insurance purchasing process or related terminology. Less than a-third (29%) understand what a health insurance exchange is, and 86% have never shopped for health insurance online. Both findings underscore why it's imperative that health insurance exchanges be easy for consumers to use effectively - a reality like that experienced when other complex purchases, such as for financial services, were first made online. (Notably, the Affordable Care Act seeks to introduce 49.9 million Americans to health insurance for the first time according to the U.S. Census report "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.")
Nearly two-thirds of all Americans will need help buying health insurance. Only 15% of respondents indicated they would prefer for someone to select a health plan on their behalf, yet nearly half (48%) believe they will need help at times throughout the process. When shopping online for health insurance, more than 87 % are somewhat or very likely to email their question if they need assistance, more than 75 % are likely or somewhat likely to participate in an online chat and more than half are somewhat likely or likely to share their screen with customer service.
One in two Americans has little understanding of the cost of health insurance. Nearly half of Americans, 49 %, are not sure how much their household spends on health insurance each month, and nearly 35 % of those with health insurance provided through their employer do not know what %age of the cost the employer bears.
Consumers report that premium cost is not the most important factor; quality is key. Less than 25 % of survey participants included low premiums among the three most important things they consider when purchasing health insurance. More than half of respondents (54 %) feel that whether a plan covers a vast number of physicians and hospitals in their area is one of the three most important factors they consider when purchasing a plan. More than a-third (38 %) look to see if they can keep their current doctor.
"Exchanges, whether publicly or privately run, dramatically reduce the costs associated with the purchase of health insurance," said Dan Maynard, president of Connecture. "It cannot, however, be overemphasized how important it is that they be built correctly and deliver an effective user experience for those that are purchasing health insurance online for the first time. As we've found in our work over the years, exchanges and Web-based marketplaces must reflect people's familiarity with insurance terminology and technology - points that came through loud and clear in our latest survey. Most of all, they must effectively address the nuances that make buying health insurance different than any other purchase and provide assistance when needed."
Connecture addresses these issues and others of singular importance - including the ability to adapt exchanges to meet the needs of elderly users and those with hearing, vision and accessibility issues - with numerous tools and features. Some of these include Plan Advisor, which guides consumers through the purchasing process and gives suggestions when requested, provider look-ups that make it easy to quickly determine which physicians participate in any given plan, cost calculators, real-time help with click-to-chat capabilities and integration with customer support centers and navigators.