Despite all the technical glitches with Healthcare.gov and state-run exchanges during open enrollment, a large majority of Americans researching health plan options relied on websites for information, but supplemented their research with other outlets for answers, including brokers and advisers who came out on top with customer satisfaction scores.
See related: Agents write considerable business on ACA exchanges
New data from The Urban Institutes Health Policy Center, released Monday, found that half of adults who obtained information on marketplaces only used a website. And while information on those sites was considered helpful by two-thirds of users, they were found to be not as helpful as other information sources. Instead, 80% found insurance agents and brokers to be very or somewhat helpful, and nearly 75% found any assistance involving a person, other than a call center, to be helpful.
The Urban Institute says that because sources of information other than the website are widely used, it is important these sources not be overlooked in continuing efforts to expand coverage.
Hispanics and lower-income adults were less likely to use just the websites. Sixty-one percent of Hispanic adults used a website to obtain information compared to more than 81% of white and nonwhite non-Hispanics, according to the research, conducted in March 2014, just before the end of open enrollment.
Hispanics were more likely to use some form of direct assistance (39.8%), including call centers, navigators, and insurance agents and brokers, compared to 30.9% of white non-Hispanics. Those aged 50-64 were twice as likely to use direct assistance as a source of information (43.2% compared to 21.9% of those age 18-34).
People are using multiple sources of information to choose the plan that is right for them, says Katherine Hempstead, who leads coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who released the study. Spreading the word about enrolling in insurance coverage is important and challenging, and research into consumer patterns and preferences can help improve the process for the next open enrollment period.
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