Insurer-consumer disconnect over what health plan factors matter most

Many health insurers view price as king, but consumers place more value on other benefits of health insurance coverage, according to PwC's Health Research Institute survey, released this week.

PwC surveyed 100 health insurance executives, and found 94 percent thought price would be most important to consumers when selecting a health plan. But only 64 percent of 1,000 consumers said they consider price when choosing a plan.

Highlighting a disconnect between health plan leaders and consumers when it comes to important health plan factors, 60 percent of executives named customer service as a very important feature, compared to only 48 percent of consumers. While insurers rated brand/reputation as more important than consumers did (43 percent and 36 percent, respectively), consumers valued quality more than insurers did (32 percent and 24 percent, respectively).

Looking at cost concerns, insurance execs named premiums as the critical issue for consumers, while most consumers considered total out-of-pocket costs as their major concern. Although consumers don't consider price the most important health plan factor, those shopping on the exchange will find plans that are, on average, comparable to or cheaper than similar employer-sponsored insurance offerings.

PwC also looked at consumers' preference for mobile applications and recommended insurers develop a targeted mobile strategy to achieve the biggest return on investment. Consumers showed they value a payer mobile app that includes alerts and reminders (73.1 percent), as well as electronic health record access (73.0 percent) and access to specific disease information (69.0 percent).

To succeed in a post-reform market, insures need to produce technological applications that appeal to consumers, according to Mark Farrah Associates (MFA), which recently listed health IT apps among four strategies for insurers to grow membership and boost revenue.

"Health plans placing heavy emphasis on premium price might miss out on other important differentiators," PwC states, nothing that the survey suggests insurers should increase their consumer analytics investments to better understand and influence consumer behavior.

For more:
- here's the PwC survey (.pdf)

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