ConnectedHealth recently conducted a consumer survey where we learned that the majority of consumers think it is harder to choose a health plan than it is to solve a Rubik’s Cube. I don’t know about you, but I was never able to solve the Rubik’s Cube, and I’d like to think that the survey result says more about the complexity of the health plan shopping experience than it does about my puzzle-solving skills!
Consumers are also spending an average of two hours on the plan selection process. Now, it’s an important and costly decision, so it’s not completely surprising to learn that they are spending such a significant chunk of time on it, but the frustrating part is that – at the end of the process – most consumers aren’t all that satisfied. 72% of consumers said they were only somewhat satisfied or somewhat or very dissatisfied. For all the effort consumers are putting in, we want them to feel good about their decision and have confidence and peace of mind at the end of the process!
The other factor is that many consumers are financially constrained, so they are primarily focused on the costs of a plan and whether it meets their needs. And it’s worth noting that most of the consumers we surveyed weren’t very confident about being able to pay their full deductible if needed, or being able to incur a premium increase of 10%. That adds to the importance – and stress – of making the right decision.
So, as we approach open enrollment for consumers buying individual insurance, we thought we should revisit our previous recommendations to consumers about how best to navigate the selection process and make the right choice for themselves:
- Focus on overall costs – Most people should focus on their “Likely Cost” under each plan – in other words, what you will pay for your premium, plus care you expect to receive throughout the year. On our Smart ChoicesTM platform we offer an estimate of the costs of care based on what you tell us about your likely use and how the plan pays benefits. In addition, it’s important to consider how particular services are covered, if they are important to you (e.g., chiropractic or physical therapy care).
- Consider the worst-case scenario – You should also understand the deductible and out-of-pocket maximums for each plan you are considering. If something serious were to happen (an accident or serious illness, for example), you could end up paying the amount of premium plus out-of-pocket maximum. For some plans, that’s a very big number. You should consider your risk tolerance and whether or not you could afford a big hit if the (admittedly unlikely) worst case were to happen.
In addition, while we know that many consumers are financially constrained, for those that have some resources and flexibility, it may also be important to consider:
- Doctor network – If keeping your current doctors is important to you, check the provider network for any plans you are considering. Going to a doctor that’s not in the network is almost always significantly more expensive. On the flip side, if you are open to going to different doctors, choosing a plan with a different doctor network may be a way to save significantly on your premium.
- Drug coverage – By the same token, if you take certain medications, you will want to make sure you know how those are covered by the plans you are considering.
Finally, remember that there are many support resources available to consumers. At ConnectedHealth, we not only offer a consumer-friendly online comparison tool to facilitate the selection process, but we also have knowledgeable agents who are available via phone or online chat. Consumers don’t have to go it alone on this complex and important task.