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Americans want affordable health insurance, unwilling to switch providers

By Maryalene LaPonsie on March 12th, 2013

While most Americans say price drives their health care decisions, they are reluctant to switch providers in order to cut costs. That's the main takeaway from a recent survey conducted by global management consulting firm Accenture.

In addition, the survey provides a study in contrasts. While many consumers want low cost health insurance and health care, most fail to understand their care costs and why they should budget for these expenses. Meanwhile, they want guidance to improve their health but do not trust health insurance companies to provide that information and less than half make regular check-ups a priority.

Consumers unwilling to make concessions for cheaper care

Accenture surveyed those who expect to buy their medical insurance through the state-run insurance exchanges mandated by the health reform law and required to be in place by 2014. Of the respondents, 72 percent cited affordability as their top concern.

However, relatively few were willing to make changes to their current health care services in order to reduce their expenses. The survey found less than half of respondents would be willing to make the following trade-offs for cheap health insurance and care.

  • Switch to a generic prescription: 43 percent
  • Use a nurse practitioner for routine visits rather than see a doctor: 41 percent
  • Change their primary care doctor: 23 percent

Consumer hesitation to make concessions in their care may prove challenging to insurers planning to provide health insurance coverage on the state-run exchanges. While many Americans may be seeking affordable health insurance, it appears consumers may not be satisfied by plans that limit physician and prescription choices, common strategies used by insurers to contain costs.

Health insurance guidance wanted but not sought out

Another challenge for health insurance companies may be the fact most Americans do not appear to trust them for information related to health care. Only 25 percent of survey respondents say they trust medical insurance providers to give them guidance to improve their health.

It's not that consumers aren't looking for guidance either. According to the survey, 81 percent want guidance to improve their health. However, most seem unsure where to find that help. Health care professionals would seem to be a logical choice, but only 40 percent of consumers say going to their doctor for regular check-ups is a priority.

Finally, consumers are feeling pinched by health care costs with many citing the need to find affordable health insurance that limits out-of-pocket expenses. At the same time, less than 20 percent say they understand what is involved in the cost of their care and, more alarmingly, why they should have to track their expenses or budget for health care.

The Accenture study indicates consumers - particularly those will be buying health insurance for the first time on the individual market - may be in for a steep learning curve when it comes to shopping for the health insurance coverage they want at a price they can afford.

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