UnitedHealth survey: Consumers say they’re prepared for open enrollment, but they spend little time shopping

UnitedHealthcare released its latest survey of consumer attitudes toward their healthcare. (jetcityimage/Getty)

Consumers say they feel ready to select a health plan during open enrollment—but they’re spending very limited time researching their options, a new survey shows. 

UnitedHealthcare released its annual Consumer Sentiment Survey this week, which polls 1,008 adults on their healthcare insurance attitudes. The survey found that 75% of consumers say they’re prepared for open enrollment, but 36% say they spend less than an hour on the process. 

In addition, 27% of respondents said they spend between one and three hours preparing to select their health coverage. Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer at UnitedHealthcare, told FierceHealthcare that this can lead people to misunderstand the plan they choose. 

For example, most consumers start with the premiums and select based on that, and may not know if they have a deductible, or what the deductible costs, she said, which can lead them to charges they don’t expect. 

“People are not investing the time to understand what’s offered to them,” Madsen said. “That can result in people choosing plans that don’t work best for themselves or their families.” 

RELATED: UnitedHealth report—Connecting Medicare patients with ‘high-value’ docs could save billions 

The survey found generational differences in preparedness. Gen-Xers were the most likely to say they were ready for open enrollment, at 84%, while 69% of millennials and 44% Gen-Z respondents said the same. 

Though consumers weren’t dedicating a ton of time researching plans, there were several elements they were focused on investigating, such as if their preferred physician was in-network and if they would have access to dental or vision care, the survey found. 

Just over half (54%) said they confirm that their doctor is in-network before selecting a plan, and 77% said they believe it’s “important” to have vision or dental options during open enrollment. 

And when consumers are looking for information to comparison shop, they’re increasingly turning to the internet, UnitedHealthcare found. More than a third (37%) of survey respondents said they use online tools and apps to shop for coverage, an increase of 257% from 2012. 

Online price comparison tools are especially popular with millennials, according to the survey, with 50% saying they use them. Madsen said such tools are a great opportunity for health plans to connect with people who don’t interact often with the healthcare system. 

“Giving them an oppprtunity to have that interaction is a real win and really positive,” she said, “and it’s something that I think people should focus on going forward.”