Despite Being Satisfied with ACA Coverage, Consumers Are Expected to Shop Around During Open Enrollment

A majority of Americans covered by the Affordable Care Act are expecting to change plans for 2015, which may be a smart move, according to industry experts. People who simply re-enroll may not realize they are no longer among the lowest costing plans, which will affect how much their subsidies pay for.

A majority of Americans covered by the Affordable Care Act are expecting to change plans for 2015, which may be a smart move, according to industry experts.

A survey by Radius Global Market Research found that just 20% of respondents were not satisfied with their coverage, while the majority perceive quality of care and cost of care being equal to or better than previous insurance coverage. However, despite being largely satisfied with their coverage, two-thirds plan to shop around during this year’s open enrollment season and change plans.

"Consumers feel that there are opportunities to get more value from the current health insurance market," Kathleen Relias senior vice president of Radius and head of its healthcare practice, said in a statement. "Plans need to develop specific strategies to avoid significant customer churn in the coming months."

While lower costs and improved access to care were the top priorities, other factors influencing consumers’ decision to shop for a new plan include the fact that they expect their premiums to increase or that their previous primary care physician wasn’t covered under the new plan.

Although the government is offering auto enrollment for individuals who take no action, this could cause trouble for consumers as insurers raise and lower rates for 2015. An analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation published in the beginning of September explained how people who simply re-enroll may not realize they are no longer among the lowest costing plans.

Individuals looking to re-enroll need to know the cost of the second-lowest silver plan in their market, which could affect federal premium subsidies being offered. The Kaiser report found that in 12 of the 16 cities analyzed for insurance premiums, at least one of the insurers that had offered one of the lowest-cost silver plan in 2014 is no longer offering it in 2015.

Furthermore, there will be far more options available this year. The Marketplace will have 77 new insurers, according to HHS. New York has the greatest number of insurers on its state-run Marketplace with 17, although Michigan, Ohio, and Texas’ federally run exchanges are close behind with 16 insurers.

CMS announced Wednesday that the re-enrollment process has been simplified with 90% of returning consumers’ online application already filled out or pre-populated. However, the government is also urging people to shop around before re-enrolling.

“It’s important for people to come back to the Marketplace during Open Enrollment, because every year, insurance companies make changes to premiums, cost-sharing and benefits,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “And with 25% more issuers offering coverage in 2015, consumers have more plans to choose from and more issuers are competing to offer a better deal.”

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