Public holds mixed views of narrow network plans

Overall, more Americans prefer costlier, wide-network health insurance plans over cheaper, narrow network products, but the reverse is true for potential exchange customers, according to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And the Affordable Care Act's unpopularity continues, with about half the poll's respondents blaming reform for rising healthcare costs, consistent with previously-reported trends.

Fifty-one percent of respondents told researchers they'd rather have a plan that costs more but lets them see a wide range of providers, while 37 percent prefer a cheaper plan that limits provider choice.

Older and wealthier respondents expressed a clearer preference for costlier, open-network plans, while younger and poorer adults were more evenly divided in their preferences. And 55 percent of respondents with employer-sponsored health insurance prefer broad networks, the poll found.

More than half of respondents who are either uninsured or buy their own coverage said they'd rather save money in exchange for less provider choice. But preferences for narrow network plans dipped to 35 percent when these respondents learned they wouldn't have full coverage for visiting their usual doctors and hospitals.  

Subsequent questions revealed another opinion shift: More people are willing to accept a narrow network if they can save up to 25 percent on their healthcare costs. In view of these savings, those who favored broad-network plans dropped from 35 percent to 22 percent of uninsured respondents and those who buy their own coverage.     

Public opinion of the ACA has remained stable since November, the poll found, with 47 percent of respondents disliking the law. Nevertheless, more people want Congress to fix rather than repeal it.  

Unawareness of reform provisions remains high among the uninsured, the poll found. Fifty percent of those respondents said they don't understand how the law affects their families, and 63 percent reported knowing little or nothing about insurance exchanges.

Researchers telephoned more than 1,500 adults for the survey between Feb. 11 and Feb. 17, Kaiser Health News reported.

For more:
- see the poll results
- read the KHN article