With the advent of the internet and new technology, our lives have become quicker, more convenient, and our access to information has expanded exponentially. As our way of relating to the world has changed over the past decade, so has the way we relate to health care. Many patients now peruse WebMD, iTriage, and other medical websites and apps before heading to the doctor. Additionally, patients turn to Facebook, Yelp, and other medical review sites before choosing who they want to take care of them. There is even a website/app called Doctor on Demand where you can video chat with a doctor about your symptoms and they will diagnose and prescribe over the phone.
All of this health care convenience leaves patients expecting the same when looking for health insurance. According to GE Capital Retail Bank’s second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study, 81% of consumers research and price compare major purchases online before heading out into the brick and mortar world. The average amount of time spent researching was 79 days.
As people turn more towards independent health coverage, a major purchase, it makes sense they would apply the same consumer savvy behaviors. This requires health insurance companies to be more transparent, convenient, and simplistic with their information, if they want to stay competitive and relevant. The advent of online exchanges makes this easy and possible for all parties involved.
Exchanges are marketplaces online that provide plans from multiple companies at multiple price points. They also offer easy to view comparison charts between plans. Think of exchanges as the Orbitz or Expedia of health insurance. Public exchanges are run by the state or federal government or a combination of both. Public exchanges provide tax credits and subsidies to those who are eligible through the Affordable Care Act. Private exchanges are not part of the Affordable Care Act and are run by private sector companies, such as health insurance companies or brokerage firms.
Both public and private exchanges offer plans for individuals or employer groups. Public exchanges are the only ones that offer subsidies, however. The benefit of exchanges are twofold. Individuals who normally might not be able to afford health care, reap the benefits of the Affordable Care Act with the subsidies provided by public exchanges. Private exchanges allow small businesses to offer their employees more health care options while still maintaining manageable costs for the business. For example, an employer could give an employee a set amount of money and send them to the private exchange website where the employee could choose which options they want based on what plans the employer chose.
Obtaining insurance through private companies, like Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield, are still valid options for consumers as well. These companies have streamlined their websites so that shoppers can easily access all of the information they want to know about health insurance premiums. Additionally, these companies ask for opinions on the ease and user friendliness of their sites through pop up surveys and emails, constantly trying to improve the customer experience.
Regardless of whether people are shopping for insurance through exchanges or private companies, the bottom line is that all consumers are looking for an experience that is straightforward, easy, affordable, and convenient.
Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.