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American Healthcare Market Research BlogAs a market researcher who has studied the health insurance industry for over two decades, this year has shown a dramatic shift in consumer thinking; that is, consumers are being forced to think harder than ever before to determine which health insurance plan is best for their family.

While I have the benefit of working directly with health insurance companies on product development, numerous articles are published each week illustrating some of the challenges consumers are facing with their new plans. These experiences make it clear why conjoint (Discrete Choice) is such a strong tool to understand consumer preferences for different health insurance plan components.

As I digest all of this information, a number of themes continue to surface:

High deductibles – consumers need to know what is subject to the deductible and what isn’t (preventive, Rx etc.). It’s unlikely that insurers want consumers to avoid preventive care as a way to manage their costs, and yet that is exactly what some consumers are doing.

Limited Network – consumers are learning the hard way that you get what you pay for. There are many stories of consumers having to drive ridiculous distances to get treatment from an in-network provider, or those who validated that their physician accepts their carrier to later learn that they don’t accept all plans offered by the carrier. Many are also having difficulty getting an appointment within a reasonable period of time, and some have even visited an in-network hospital and received a bill from an out-of-network physician who treated them there.  

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Healthcare ReformsWith the recent Supreme Court ruling, it appears that HealthCare Reform is here.  Regardless of which side of the fence consumers fall on, there is important information that they should understand about HCR in order to make critical choices for their care and coverage.  We were interested in finding out how well informed they are now, to see how far we need to go in educating them about their healthcare choices in the coming years. Just under half consider themselves to be slightly knowledgeable, which is about where we’d expect consumers to be at this stage.  One quarter considers themselves knowledgeable and a third report that they are not knowledgeable.

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