Clear Choices Blog: J.D. Power Survey Highlights Choice and Cost Sensitivity of Consumers Seeking Coverage through ACA's Insurance Exchanges

By: Amit Rao, Clear Choices, 5/4/15

On April 23, 2015, J.D. Power released the 2015 HIX Study, emphasizing the importance of health plan information, choice, and costs for the satisfaction of Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange plan enrollees. The survey collected responses from approximately 3,000 consumers on the insurance exchanges, including both new enrollees and re-enrollees, from December 9, 2014, through February 24, 2015.

The key points of interest from the survey are outlined below.

More Information Improves the Enrollment Process

J.D. Power reports that new enrollee satisfaction with the exchange enrollment process increased substantially in 2015 from 2014, with exchange plans generating equal or higher levels of member satisfaction than non-exchange health coverage.

  • Specifically, enrollment satisfaction among new enrollees grew by 55 points from 615 in 2014 to 670 in 2015 (on a 1,000-point scale).
  • Among re-enrollees, satisfaction levels were even higher, at 731 points.

Why did satisfaction with the enrollment process improve? J.D. Power found that satisfaction with enrollment was driven primarily by the “variety of information available about health insurance plan choices.” In fact, the survey found that re-enrollees who did not auto re-enroll primarily used online research while shopping—particularly health plan websites (58 percent), general online searches (51 percent) and online consumer reviews (29 percent).

These findings show yet again that when health plans provide more information, consumers respond positively, underscoring the importance of health plan accessibility.

Choice and Cost Drive Exchange Plan Satisfaction

What about ACA enrollee satisfaction with their actual health plans? How does satisfaction with exchange plans compare to other coverage? J.D. Power reports that consumer satisfaction with the marketplace plans is 696. Interestingly, that number is 17 points higher than the satisfaction level reported (679) in J.D. Power’s Member Health Plan Study (MHPS) survey of consumers in non-exchange, mostly employer-based plans.

There are two key insights from this difference in consumer satisfaction among exchange and traditional health plan enrollees.

  1. The availability of health plan choice matters for consumers. J.D. Power found that when comparing satisfaction among marketplace plan members with just those in traditional, employer coverage who were offered multiple plan options, the 17-point gap disappeared and both groups of enrollees reported an overall satisfaction level of 696.
  2. J.D. Power also underlined that health plan cost is, “the most influential attribute driving satisfaction among marketplace plan members.”

The survey quoted Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, who explained:

“Marketplace shoppers are very cost-sensitive. Unlike many traditional health plan members, who are often tied to a single employer benefit offering, Marketplace members have an option to switch plans annually, allowing them to shop for either the most affordable or the most valuable plan. Plan providers need to demonstrate the value of their plan by clearly communicating coverage and benefits.

As health industry stakeholders and policymakers continue to seek reforms to improve the health care system, they should pay attention to how consumers are already responding positively when given more information about health plan choices and costs.