Health insurance exchange customers more engaged, cost-conscious

The rise of public health insurance exchanges has ramped up Americans' engagement with their health plans, signaling an opportunity for insurers who are able to adapt to a more consumer-centric market, according to a new report from Deloitte.

Compared to those covered through Medicaid, Medicare or through private employers, public health insurance exchange customers were the most likely to say cost and value were important factors in choosing their plan, the company's 2015 survey of U.S. healthcare consumers finds.

These customers also tended to be better informed. By the time they enroll, 51 percent of public exchange customers said they had a good understanding of their plan's benefits, compared to 47 percent of employer-plan enrollees and 45 percent of Medicaid enrollees. Medicare customers, on the other hand, were the most likely to indicate that they had a good understanding of plan costs.

And consumers' ability to shop around may be aided by the fact that competition and plan choice in federal health insurance marketplaces is on the rise, according to a recent Department of Health and Human Services report.

The news isn't all positive, however. Public exchange customers generally feel less financially prepared to handle future healthcare costs and less confident they can get affordable care when they need it, the report finds. In addition, 35 percent of public exchange customers feel they are paying too much for their plan, and only 30 percent said they were satisfied with their current plan--the latter a figure considerably lower than non-exchange customers.

"The ACA individual market is still a new phenomenon that is up for grabs," Paul Lambdin, director of Deloitte Consulting LLP, and exchange practice leader for the plans sector, said in a statement. "Loyalty is not locked in like it is in other industries--there could be a significant opportunity for traditional players and new entrants to seize market share by listening to what consumers say about product, price and service."

Insurers who want to cater to exchange customers should provide tools for comparison shopping and strive to improve consumers' health literacy, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the statement

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