J.D. Power study finds increasing interest in HIX usage

Nearly 40 percent of people with employer-sponsored health coverage would shop for coverage via a health insurance exchange, if one were available, according to the J.D. Power and Associates “2012 U.S. Member Health Plan Study” released March 13.

In addition, 55 percent of people who purchase their own insurance indicated they would likely use their state’s health insurance exchanges, which were conceived, in part, as a means to make it easier for individuals to shop for and compare different health insurance plans. The study also finds that people are becoming more interested in using health insurance exchanges to purchase their health plans. In 2012, only 37 percent of health plan members say they would not be likely to use an exchange, versus 50 percent who said they expected to continue obtaining coverage at work last year.

“Health insurance exchanges are meant to appeal to individuals who must buy coverage on their own, yet the level of interest among those who obtain health insurance at work could have important implications for the future of employer-sponsored coverage,” said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates, in a press release announcing the 2012 survey results. “Satisfaction among some health plan members may be low enough that an alternative, direct retail model could become more attractive than traditional wholesale purchasing by employers.”

The survey also found significant interest among employees in using a private insurance exchange – a method where employers would provide workers with vouchers for a set dollar amount and would allow employees to shop for and purchase coverage on their own. Among those currently with an employer-sponsored health plan, 41 percent indicated they would purchase insurance this way if it were available to them.

“Creating new channels for purchasing insurance could trigger more changes,” Millard added. “It could mean more attention will be paid to direct purchasers, and also make higher levels of satisfaction critically important for health plans that strive to acquire and retain members.”

The study, now in its sixth year, showed an uptick in 2012 in the level of satisfaction of people in employer-based insurance programs with their health insurance company. Members surveyed reported an average satisfaction level of 702 on a 1,000-point scale, compared with an average score of 696 in 2011.

Health plan members in Michigan, the Illinois/Indiana region and Ohio are the most satisfied with their health plan experience, while members in the Mountain region and Colorado are the least satisfied, according to the report.

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