It may come as no surprise to you that consumers spend very little time evaluating alternatives and selecting their health insurance benefits each year. If we go by their self-reported figures (which are likely over stated to avoid looking foolish), the average consumer spent less than 3 hours and 20 minutes choosing their coverage in the past year. Over 28% admitted that they spent less than one hour evaluating their coverage and another third of consumers spent between one and two hours.
Consumers that are heavily engaged in their personal health, according to the DSS Health Care Engagement Index, spent more time than any other group. Disengaged consumers spent significantly less time than Engaged consumers (3.0 hours vs. 5.1 hours) with almost half spending less than one hour and another 26% saying they did not know how long they spent on this task.
Direct pay consumers spent roughly five hours choosing their current health plan and consumers on Medicare spent an average of four hours, while those with employer-based group coverage spent the least amount of time making their benefit selection (2.9 hours). Employers with employer-based coverage may have fewer plan choices to consider (if any), but over 30% of them spent less than one hour familiarizing themselves with their benefits and another 34% spent only one to two hours. Direct pay or individual product consumers typically face a larger financial investment and often receive little or no assistance in selecting their benefits, but almost half of them spent less than two hours on the process. Despite having the highest current usage levels and the greatest future need for health care services as a group, 55% of Medicare-eligible consumers spent less than two hours selecting their current plan.
Over 40% of consumers made no changes to their health plan in the past year. The most engaged consumers are far more likely to have made some type of change. Over one-quarter of them changed carriers and another 10% change plans within the same carrier the last time they enrolled. Only 2% of Disengaged consumers changed carriers and over 80% of them made no changes. Direct pay consumers are the most likely to have changed their benefits in some way, with 26% of them going from uninsured to insured and 31% changing either the carrier or the plan they selected. Two-thirds of employer-based and Medicare consumers made no changes to their health plan at the last enrollment.
Given that health insurance reform will require more people to get involved in the benefits decision and introduce many consumers to health insurance coverage terminology and pricing for the very first time, it is imperative that consumers take a more active role in evaluating, understanding and selecting the best available alternative for themselves and their families.