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3 ways to improve consumer experience on health insurance exchanges

Better comparison shopping tools, greater focus on health literacy among recommendations

Payers marketing on health insurance exchanges should focus on helping members purchase the right coverage--not only for their healthcare needs but also for their financial circumstances. And marketplace officials and policymakers are well-positioned to help them weigh their options on both counts.

That's the upshot of a new survey from the National Partnership for Women & Families, which interviewed consumer assistance experts and insurance navigators from California, Colorado, Florida and Illinois. It made several recommendations to help improve the shopping experience for consumers, including:

  1. Provide tools for comparison shopping. Navigators noted that plan analysis and comparison is the most time-consuming portion of their appointments with consumers. To condense the comparison shopping process, provide a summary of benefits and coverage template; create a tool that allows consumers to see which providers are in their preferred provider in-network; and create an out-of-pocket cost calculator.
  2. Ensure information is accurate. Navigators in the survey reported that consumers are sometimes presented with inaccurate or out-of-date plan information, especially about which providers are in-network and which prescription drugs are covered. "Since accurate and reliable data is critical to informed
    consumer decision-making, policymakers and health plans should work together to ensure that health plan information is accurate and updated regularly," the report notes.
  3. Improve health literacy to help consumers make more informed choices. Navigators found that many consumers still require basic information on how health insurance works: Nearly half of uninsured Americans lack confidence when it comes to selecting the right health plan. Health literacy tools should be incorporated into the plan selection process, the survey report notes.

"Clearly there are no one-size-fits-all solutions," National Partnership President Debra L. Ness said in a statement. "But we have identified strategies that can help; they include going back to basics to improve consumers' health literacy, making plan comparisons easier and ensuring that information on plan features is current at all times."

For more:
- here's the survey (.pdf)
- check out the statement

Related Articles:
Half of uninsured Americans lack confidence when selecting health plans
Insurance jargon still confuses consumers
How to make health literacy work