A recent Kaiser Health News article questions consumers’ ability to navigate insurance exchanges. State-sponsored and federally facilitated insurance exchanges are building their technology platforms, selecting qualified health plans, and setting up their infrastructure. The underlying assumption is that in October 2013, when open enrollment begins, consumers will be prepared.
The consumer’s ability to navigate exchanges is perhaps the most critical component of success. The Federal Government, recognizing that this process might confuse consumers, has funded Exchange Navigators to help consumers understand eligibility, subsidies, enrollment rules and processes, and the specifics of Qualified Health Plan (QHP) design provisions.
Consumers and Navigators need robust information and efficient tools to manage this process. Improved consumer education benefits not only the consumer and the exchange but also the health plans — by ensuring that individuals select the plan that’s right for their situation and have a great customer experience while doing so. Increasing a consumer’s ongoing engagement in their own healthcare management can lower costs and increase their plan loyalty and satisfaction — which is especially important in this new marketplace.
For exchanges to succeed, we must elevate consumer interest and participation in healthcare decision making to the same level as other important life decisions. States, the Federal Government, and health plans all need to share the responsibility to make that happen.