CHCF retained gotoresearch, a division of the San Francisco-based user experience and design agency gotomedia, to conduct this research over each of the last three open enrollment periods. The findings are based on unscripted, real-time observation of people applying for or renewing coverage online, and they capture sources of consumer satisfaction, knowledge, confusion, and frustration.Like Anthony, most other participants in the CHCF-sponsored research were confronted with problems with the online enrollment process. Of 31 people eligible to enroll in or renew a Covered California health plan in the second (2014-15) and third (2015-16) open enrollment periods, only one was able to complete the task during the observed research session. Sessions lasted 45-90 minutes for renewals and 90-120 minutes for new enrollees.Today, CHCF released Room for Improvement: Consumers’ Experience Enrolling Online with Covered California, which describes this user testing in further detail, discusses common problems experienced by participants, and offers recommendations for improving the online enrollment process.
This report shows how a combination of factors can deter online enrollments — this one involving the nation’s largest state-based health benefit exchange. Many consumers have low levels of health insurance literacy, unable to fully take into account premiums, deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and annual out of pocket maximums when selecting a plan. Even when benefits are standardized as they for California exchange plans.
As the CHCF report and video illustrates, in order to self enroll consumers must also possess a degree of income tax literacy that many — particularly the younger adults the plans hope to attract — may lack. Then there are complex family situations and sporadic, unpredictable incomes of those participating in the “gig” economy that exponentially increase the challenge of online self-enrollment. If an online enrollment portal adds to the burden by being less than user friendly as reported here, it’s no wonder many are flummoxed by the enrollment process and simply throw up their hands and log out.
Shopping online for plans is one thing. But enrolling in an individual health plan offered on a state health benefit exchange can be like filing an income tax return — and a relatively complex one at that for many. Call center support can only go so far. Imagine trying to file an income tax return by phone. That makes the role of insurance agents and in person assisters just as vital as that of tax preparers for many income tax filers during the current tax filing season.
Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email