Exchange Solutions Survey: Retirees Embrace Exchanges, Still Rely on Help From Benefit Advisors To Make Purchase Decisions

August 7, 2013

We’ve heard a lot about exchanges in the media, especially as the implementation date approaches for the first wave of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With phrases like “public exchanges” and “online marketplaces” making headlines, it raises the question – what are exchanges and how do they work?

One group of people that knows is the Medicare-eligible retirees who have purchased individual private Medicare plans on our exchange. In a survey of 567 of our retirees fielded between July 27-July 29, 2013, respondents demonstrated a clear understanding of exchanges, with 46.4 percent identifying them as “a marketplace that makes it easier to compare healthcare plans from different health insurance companies.” Just 12.4 percent responded, “I don’t know.”

Based on their experience with our private exchange solution, 52.3 percent of retirees said they consider “exchanges a welcome addition to the U.S. health insurance system.” Just under a quarter (23.5%) even said, “I wish my employer had allowed me to select and enroll in health insurance plans through an exchange when I was an active employee.”

Our retirees also reported that they are using web-based decision support tools when evaluating and comparing health insurance plans. While our retirees historically preferred talking with benefit advisors over the phone to evaluate plans on exchange – and that has not changed – a large number of respondents to our recent survey said they also compared different plans using the exchange website (47.8 percent).

When it comes to purchasing a plan, however, just 8 percent said they purchased online on their own, with no help from a benefit advisor. This reinforces our long-held belief that while technology powers health insurance exchanges – and helps people compare plans, make purchase decisions and enroll in plans – technology is no substitute for direct human interaction.

As we’ve said many times before, an exchange is more than an interactive website.

Details on survey questions and answers follow.


Which statement best describes a health insurance exchange?

A marketplace that makes it easier to compare
health plans from different health insurance companies
46.35%                     

A marketplace that promotes competition between
health insurance companies that results in lower
prices
15.33%                                           

A marketplace where buyers have more choice
in health plans
14.78%

An organized marketplace for buying and selling
health insurance
11.13%  

I don’t know
12.4%

Based on what you know about health insurance exchanges, which of the following statements are true? (Please select all that apply.)

Health insurance exchanges are a welcome
addition to the U.S. health insurance system
52.27%

I prefer to purchase my private Medicare plans
through an exchange
45.45%

Everyone should have access to a health
insurance exchange
45.55%

I wish my employer had allowed me to select
and enroll in health insurance plans through
an when I was an active employee
23.48%

Health insurance exchanges are unnecessarily
adding little or nothing of value to our
health insurance system
13.64%

When you evaluated or purchased a health plan on an exchange, which of the following types of support did you use before making your purchase? (Please select all that apply.)

Talked on the telephone with a benefit advisor
75.05%

Compared different plans using the exchange
website
47.84%

Reviewed ratings of health insurance plans and
companies
28.14%

Talked with family members or friends
26.45%

Read articles, blogs or forums online
13.51%

When you evaluated or purchased health insurance plans on an exchange, did you:

Evaluate and purchase plans only with
the help of a benefit advisor
37.70%

Evaluate and purchase plans online by
yourself with no help from a benefit advisor
8.01%

A combination of the two
54.28%

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