Despite all the technical glitches with Healthcare.gov and state-run exchanges during open enrollment, a large majority of Americans, who researched health plan options, relied upon websites for information. However, in their quest for answers, these people also supplemented their research with other outlets, including brokers and advisers who scored high in customer satisfaction.
New data from The Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, released Monday, found that half of adults who obtained information on marketplaces only used a website. While the information on those sites was considered helpful by two-thirds of users, the sites were found to not be as helpful as other information sources. Instead, 80% found insurance agents and brokers to be very, or somewhat helpful, and nearly 75% found any help involving a person, other than a call center, to be helpful.
The Urban Institute says, that since sources of information other than the website are widely used, it is important that these sources not be overlooked in continuing efforts to expand coverage.
According to research conducted in March of 2014, just before the end of open enrollment, Hispanics and lower-income adults were less likely to use only the websites. Sixty-one percent of Hispanic adults used a website to get information compared to more than 81% of white and non-white non-Hispanics. Hispanics were more likely to use some form of direct assistance (39.8%), including call centers, navigators, and insurance agents and brokers, compared to 30.9% of white non-Hispanics. Those aged 50-64 were twice as likely to use direct assistance as a source of information (43.2% compared to 21.9% of those age 18-34).
“People are using multiple sources of information to choose the plan that is right for them,” says Katherine Hempstead, who leads coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the organization that released the study. “Spreading the word about enrolling in insurance coverage is important and challenging, and research into consumer patterns and preferences can help improve the process for the next open enrollment period.” (Brian M. Kalish June 9, 2014, Employee Benefit Adviser)