"It's not clear yet what America's health care future will look like, but the continuing impact of the COVID pandemic and debates among policymakers over the future of government programs are shaping consumer experiences and expectations."—eHealth
eHealth, a large health insurance exchange in the U.S., has released its biannual Health Insurance Trends report. Topics range from Medicare, COVID-19, technology, and disparities to insurance coverage selection, costs, billing, and customer experience. The report is based on a survey of more than 6,400 consumers and 15 health plans, and for the first time includes response breakdowns based on racial and ethnic demographics. The results below highlight areas of interest for payers.
- Consumer response varies on Medicare benefits, costs, and private sector roles.
- Expanding Medicare: 92% want added dental, vision, and hearing benefits for traditional Medicare but only 50% would be willing to pay for them.
- Public versus private: A majority believe Medicare should continue to be a public/private program but results vary among Republicans (56%), Independents (56%), and Democrats (51%).
- COVID-19 consumer opinions mixed while pandemic impact on health insurers less than expected.
- Vaccination status and premiums: 45% of consumers support higher insurance costs for people who are unvaccinated, with 37% opposed.
- Modest cost increases: 55% of insurers indicate that COVID has increased member medical costs but most by 10% or less.
- Post-pandemic picture: 38% of insurers have reduced, or plan to, their voluntary COVID coverage expansions. Only 12% plan to raise premiums.
- Diverse communities see more surprise billing, fewer choices.
- Unexpected charges: Compared to 46% of White respondents and 45% of men, many consumers who are Hispanic (60%), Black (56%), or women (54%) have encountered unexpected medical costs.
- Coverage doesn't reflect community: Fewer people of color believe that their insurance options meet their specific racial or ethnic medical needs. This includes 41% of Hispanic, 45% of Asian, and 46% of Black respondents compared to white (58%).
- Response varies on insurance options and innovation.
- Marketplaces: 69% of consumers want additional, private options for marketplace shopping, comparison, and enrollment.
- More faith in the private sector: More than half of respondents (52%) believe private enterprise is better at technology and innovation than the government (18%).
Laura Beerman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.