Who Cares What the Customer Thinks? New Research Shares Consumers’ Perspectives on Exchanges

April 26, 2015| Von Mike Fullerton | L/H General Industry, Life, Medicare Supplement | English

Region: U.S.

Recently I Googled "Research on Insurance Exchanges.” It may (or may not) be a surprise to you that I got almost 17 million search results. What came up was an abundance of information - reports on everything from how to navigate them to projections about their future and studies telling us why we should like them to why we should hate them.

What I didn't see in my Google search was an abundance of information on what consumers currently think about exchanges, or what they even understand about how they work. Wouldn't it be helpful for insurers to know what the end customer thinks, especially as we look back now on our first year since their implementation?

Gen Re recently conducted research to find out exactly what individuals (both young and not so young) think and know about insurance exchanges (both public and private). In case you’re interested in the results, they are described in recently held webinars that reveal both the general consumer and the senior market perspectives; you can view the recording.

We conducted our research in two phases; both phases targeted consumers of varying life stages and ages. Phase 1 consisted of an online focus group with 50 participants; Phase 2 involved an online survey with 2,000 participants.

The questions we asked delved into a few key areas not previously covered by other studies to establish:

  • What is the general public’s level of knowledge and interest regarding insurance exchanges, and what are their perspectives on the future?
  • What amount of time/effort are individuals willing to invest in researching their insurance options, and which methods/tools will they use to become educated prior to making a purchase?
  • What, if any, impact may insurance exchanges have on the employer/employee relationship?
  • Trust - who do consumers prefer to manage the insurance exchange and who do they trust most to provide information about their options?

The key takeaways from our research were revealing in a few significant areas: 

  • Competitive price will lure the younger buyers to an exchange. The youngest group of respondents (21-30 year olds) was the most open to following the better deal on health insurance. Concerning their willingness to purchase through an exchange, they were more driven than the older groups to abandon their employer’s plan if they could find a better price. (See chart below)
  • The exchanges may not always be just about health insurance. Half of respondents believe that insurance exchanges will expand to offer other products beyond health insurance.
  • Employers’ help in offsetting the cost of health insurance matters. A little over half (54%) of respondents reported they would start looking for new employment right away if their employer were to stop offering health/medical insurance and didn’t contribute to the cost of purchasing through an exchange.
  • Purchasing insurance through an exchange will not come without challenges, especially if individuals need to purchase ancillary benefits. In fact, 61% of respondents feel they will need some assistance in selecting non-health insurance products such as Disability, Critical Illness and Long Term Care. The chart below indicates who they would expect to manage those exchanges.
Actions Taken When Employer Stops Offering Insurance
and Does Not Contribute to Cost, by Age Group 
 Source: Gen Re

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