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Consumers more satisfied with health insurance despite rising costs

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

Over the past few years, the way people interact with their health insurers on a regular basis has changed dramatically. Thanks in large part to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health coverage landscape is quite different these days, but it seems as though policy providers have really risen to the potential challenges that come with the new requirements.

That shifting positive view of health insurers is reflected by the fact that people feel better about their insurers today, in spite of higher costs that might have otherwise had a negative impact on their experiences with these companies, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index. In all, there was a 4.3 percent uptick in positive consumer sentiment about health insurers, boosting the industry's index position to 72.

People are generally happier with their health insurance these days.People are generally happier with their health insurance these days.

A mixed bag
Interestingly, all major health insurance providers in the U.S. saw their customer satisfaction ratings tick up at least somewhat, the report said. The two companies that finished first also experienced sizable year-over-year increases in customer satisfaction, but the one that actually saw the single largest positive move still finished last for the industry. In addition, though, the range in which individual satisfaction with health insurers fell was quite small, from 67 at its lowest point to 75 at its highest.

By comparison, customer satisfaction with property and casualty insurance had a broader spread, from 74 to 81, and an industry average of 78 (which was actually down for the year), the report said. Meanwhile, life insurers ranged from 75 to 82 and an average of 79.

Higher costs remain a concern
But despite rising satisfaction, more anecdotal evidence highlights consumers' worry about their ability to actually pay for the coverage they need according to a report from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, television station WGAL. Depending upon a number of factors, some consumers have seen their health insurance costs double from 2016 to 2017. And with the marketplaces now accepting customers for another round of open enrollment, many are weighing significant decisions.

Some experts say this is because the health insurance exchanges for individuals still haven't really reached the equilibrium some might have expected by now, as insurers continue to grapple with the changing cost of coverage associated with bringing previously uninsurable consumers into the fold, the report said. Those with pre-existing conditions are now able to get coverage, but it's bringing up rates for many at the same time.

With this in mind, it's still vital for health insurance coverage providers and brokers to make sure they reach out to consumers when premiums rise. Doing so may help people understand why their rates are going up and what they're paying for in the first place. That kind of understanding can go a long way toward helping people maintain improving opinions of their health insurance companies, because while they might still be worried about the cost of coverage, at least they will know why they pay what they do.

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