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Customers more satisfied where health plan competition is higher

But customers are still looking for simple choices that are easy to understand, study says

Consumers were most satisifed with their health plans in markets where there was more competition, but they also favor having to make fewer choices when it comes to their health plan provider options, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Member Health Plan Study.

On a nationwide basis, members' satisfaction with their health plan increased by 9 points from 2015, scoring a total of 668 points on a 1,000-point scale--a 19 point improvement since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2014. Satisfaction is higher in areas where market competition is high, specifically when it comes to cost, customer service, information and communication, the study says. However, satisfaction is higher in less competitive marketplaces in one area: in-network provider options.

Greg Hoeg, vice president of U.S. insurance operations at J.D. Power, said this is because consumers like having fewer, simpler choices that are easier to understand. "Having dozens of plan options--such as deductibles and coverage levels--to choose from can be overwhelming," he said in a statement.

Other highlights of the findings include:

  • Integrated delivery systems are more successful if they are focused on member satisfaction.
  • There has been a slight decrease in monthly premiums across the board.
  • Health plans are slowly evolving into wellness partners, as about 20 percent of members say they "strongly agree" that their health plan is a trusted partner in their overall wellness.

The study also notes that insurers have been forced to compensate for slimmer margins by focusing on increasing their market share, often through mergers. Two proposed mergers between four of the country's largest insurers have drawn criticism from consumer and provider groups, who say they will limit consumer choice. But the insurers have said mergers will improve the healthcare system and offer consumers more choices and greater access to higher quality, more affordable care.

Last year's J.D. Power study also indicated that satisfaction is on the rise among health plan members.

To learn more:
- here are the study results

Related Articles:
For payers, member satisfaction on the rise
3 ways payers can adapt to meet consumer expectations
Consumer coalition to advocate against health insurer mergers