Insurers must break consumers of choice habit

Narrow networks have become the favorite among insurers selling plans on health insurance exchanges. Now, insurers need to help convince consumers that they don't need more provider choices and it's better to save money instead.

Although the size of plan networks vary, many exchange policies exclude at least some large hospitals or doctor groups, reported the New York Times.

Consumers are evaluating affordability and size of networks, America's Health Insurance Plans CEO Karen Ignagni told the Times. "What we're finding is individuals are experiencing a preference for affordability."

Consumers keep telling Washington-based Premera Blue Cross that cost is a big issue for them, according to Premera spokesman Eric Earling. That was a large reason why six of the eight insurers selling on the Washington marketplace excluded Seattle Children's Hospital. "The reality is, there are some providers that are more expensive than others," Earling told KUOW.

Now, insurers must convince consumers that limiting choice is beneficial. "We have to break people away from the choice habit that everyone has," Marcus Merz, CEO of PreferredOne, an insurer in Minnesota, told the Times. "We're all trying to break away from this fixation on open access and broad networks."

Although many insurers' networks focus on providers willing to charge lower fees, some industry analysts predict networks will evolve to emphasize providers who deliver coordinated, high-quality care rather than only reduced costs.

Even still, insurers may soon see tougher restrictions regarding their networks since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed a policy requiring payers to expand their networks to include essential community providers or risk being kicked out of the marketplaces.

To learn more:
- read the New York Times article
- see the KUOW article