Similarities and Differences in Choosing Health Plans

Published in: Medical Care, v. 40, no. 4, Apr. 2002, p. 289-302

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2002

by Pamela Farley Short, Lauren McCormack, Judith Hibbard, James Shaul, Lauren Harris-Kojetin, Michael H. Fox, Peter Damiano, Jennifer Uhrig, Paul Cleary

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BACKGROUND: Increasingly, consumers have multiple health insurance options. New information is being developed to help consumers with these choices. OBJECTIVES: To study similarities and differences in how the publicly and privately insured choose health plans. To explore the effect of traditional enrollment materials and reports developed by the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Study (CAHPS) on consumer's perceptions and decision-making. RESEARCH DESIGN: Using data from eight CAHPS demonstrations, the authors tested for significant differences across consumers with employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare. SUBJECTS: Approximately 10,000 consumers with employer-sponsored, Medicaid, and Medicare health plans. MEASURES: Perceptions of the health plan selection process, use of information sources, and reactions to and use of traditional enrollment materials and CAHPS reports. RESULTS: Most consumers with all types of insurance thought that choosing a health plan was important and obtained information from multiple sources. Choosing a plan was more difficult for Medicare and Medicaid recipients than for the privately insured. When choosing a plan, Medicaid recipients cared most about convenience and access, whereas the privately insured emphasized providers and costs. The percentage of consumers who looked at and remembered the CAHPS report varied widely from 24% to 77%. In all but one of the demonstration sites, most consumers spent less than 30 minutes looking at the CAHPS report. CONCLUSIONS: Group sponsors and the developers of information interventions such as CAHPS may need to invest in developing and testing different reporting approaches for Medicare, Medicaid, and privately insured consumers.

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