Health Care Consumers Happy With Shopping Experience, Survey Finds

August 1, 2016

A popular notion in some circles is that many people who purchase health insurance on public exchanges are unhappy or dissatisfied with their experiences. Three recent reports refute that contention: one from Deloitte, one from the Commonwealth Fund, and one from Kaiser Health News.

According to John Barkett, director of policy affairs for Willis Towers Watson, Deloitte has diligently followed the progress of public exchanges since they came online in 2014 and therefore, its study merits greater attention. The Deloitte report found that in 2016 53% of exchange consumers were satisfied with their health plans. This compares to 54% of consumers on employer-sponsored health plans.

Barkett shed more light on the implications of these findings. According to Barkett, critics knock public exchanges because they control cost through the use of narrow networks, which limits consumer choice. “This has been portrayed as a deal breaker for individuals who may have had the same primary care provider or health network for many years,” he said.

However, according to the Deloitte report, 27% of exchange consumers said they would take a narrower network in exchange for lower premiums. This compares to just 20% of health care consumers as a whole.

The takeaway, Barkett suggested, is that even with narrow networks, exchange consumers are satisfied with their options, on par with those of their counterparts who are ensured by their employers.

Furthermore, even when a narrow network required exchange consumers to give up their previous primary care provider, 74% still reported being satisfied with the primary care doctors and hospital networks included in their coverage, according to the Deloitte study.

The Commonwealth Fund and Kaiser Health News studies came to similar conclusions. The Commonwealth Fund study found that 44% of exchange participants were “very satisfied” with their coverage after the open enrollment period 2016, up from 40% in 2015. The Kaiser Family Foundation study found that two-thirds of marketplace consumers rated their coverage as either “good” or “excellent.”

Said Barkett, “It appears that reports of the death–or in this case, consumer dissatisfaction with plans on the public exchange–are greatly exaggerated.”

To read the Deloitte study, click here.

For the Commonwealth Fund study, click here.

For the study from Kaiser Health News, click here.

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