Once a year, Americans are asked to choose health insurance for the upcoming year. For traditional employees, this may mean reviewing and selecting from two or three company-sponsored plans. But, for others, Open Enrollment represents a confusing set of options.
The healthcare system is becoming increasingly complex and difficult for consumers to navigate. Understanding the benefits of health plans is a time-consuming and stressful process. Often, the differences between alternatives are not clear and the offerings are not standardized across the board, leaving consumers to compare apples with oranges. The limited time window in which people are required to make these choices also contributes to added stress.
Consumers face many questions throughout the process, and they don’t always have the right support to get the answers. For something as important as health coverage, which can impact every aspect of a person’s life, the stakes are high. And for first-time buyers, the inexperience means the stakes are even higher.
Different health exchanges across the country offer a varied set of choices for consumers. In some states, there are few competitors offering plans on the exchanges. In this scenario, the limited options come with the fear of not having the right options or not getting a “good deal.” Were there better options not listed in the exchange? In other states, where competition is abundant and the plan options are many, the complexity of comparing them can be overwhelming.
In healthcare, consumers make choices based on six primary factors – the six E’s: economy, effectiveness, empathy, efficiency, experience and empowerment. For different people and in different situations, the weight of each factor varies. When choosing insurance, for example, not knowing what criteria to prioritize or how to make trade-offs in the decision-making process makes the choice daunting. Do you opt for a lower monthly premium or is it better to have a lower deductible, and how will these variables affect your next doctor visit?
Ultimately, once consumers finally make a choice, they are left to wonder if they made the right one.
Education is the answer to more informed and favorable decision-making. Having the necessary support from the companies offering health insurance, including a clear articulation of the plan’s value and benefits standardized across providers, allows consumers to compare their options accurately and make decisions based on what matters most to them. Some exchanges, such as Connecticut’s, offer an online calculator to help assess costs as well as a clustered presentation of similar types of insurance plans to filter options.
By offering tools to help navigate the system more easily and providing clear information around the features they value, insurers can foster a less stressful process for consumers and empower them to make the right choices for their health.