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Exchange enrollment makes people better health insurance shoppers?

Health Care and Health Insurance
by David Dillon
ACA signups reaching record levels again
ACA signups reaching record levels again

Over the last few years, millions of Americans have had the experience of shopping for health insurance on the federally mandated exchange websites, and found plans that fit their needs as a result. But beyond the benefit of adding health insurance to their financial lives, it seems that many of these people are also getting better at shopping for coverage and figuring out more about how certain benefits and other aspects of their plans will impact them going forward.

In general, being able to shop for insurance coverage on the exchanges seems to make people a lot more savvy about seeking out and finding the types of plans and benefits that will best fit their financial and personal health needs, according to a new study from Deloitte entitled Public Health Exchanges - Opening the Door for a New Generation of Engaged Health Care Consumers. The study examined health insurance shopping habits among people who got their coverage through the exchanges versus those on Medicaid or Medicare, as well as consumers who receive health insurance through employers.

What were the findings?
The overall takeaway here is that those enrolled in the Healthcare.gov marketplace, and others run by individual states, tend to have a better understanding of what they're paying for and the overall cost of their plans, and are likewise more capable when it comes to comparing one possible plan against another when it comes to benefits, cost, and quality. As a consequence, they are also far more likely to switch coverage and even move from one insurer to the next in an effort to find the best deal possible for themselves. Interestingly, only 30 percent of those getting coverage through the exchanges say they're happy with their plans, and 45 percent changed plans between 2014 and 2015.

Greg Scott, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and vice chairman and national sector leader for the company's health plans practice, noted that this is something that should send a clear sign to health insurers in general, the report said. The more these companies can do to meet customers halfway when it comes to issues related to transparency, customer service, and more, the better off they might be when it comes to attracting new enrollees.

More people are using online tools to find the best coverage possible through the exchanges.More people are using online tools to find the best coverage possible through the exchanges.

How are they doing it?
When consumers are faced with various choices in deciding their health insurance coverage for the next year, slightly more than half will use online tools to compare their options for care providers, the report said. That's higher than the 45 percent who do so for coverage through their employers and slightly more than 1 in 3 for Medicare enrollees. Likewise, 63 percent use these tools to examine the cost of health care services, versus 53 percent for employer-sponsored plans and 51 percent for those on Medicare.

Working with consumers to help them find the most affordable coverage that fits their needs financially and health-wise is likely to become central to the ways in which most insurers do business in the very near future, if it hasn't already.

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