A common belief, supported by research, is that most patients are highly satisfied with the care provided by their personal physician.1 Individuals and small employers will face an array of new health plan choices for 2014 that will test this assumption. One key factor in consumers’ selection process will be whether their doctor participates in a plan’s network of providers. Meanwhile cost pressures are moving insurers to limit the size of the network in order to negotiate lower rates to health care providers in exchange for a larger volume of patients.2
To test the trade-off between physician choice and health plan cost, HealthPocket probed attitudes based on specific premium dollar savings amount. The results indicate that while a substantial minority of the population will in fact want to be certain that their physician participates in a health plan before selecting that plan, a surprising majority considers this an open question.
Nearly twenty-four percent of the respondents report that they do not have a regular doctor, while an additional thirty-four percent would switch in order to receive premium savings. Over half of the latter group would do so for the lowest savings amount presented by the survey, $500 to $1,000 annually.
Prior HealthPocket research looked at how the individual and family health insurance market currently works and how that market will change with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA,” often referred to as “Obamacare.”) Regardless of whether the ACA causes premiums in the individual and small business market to rise or fall, having many consumers pay all or a substantial portion of their health premiums will encourage them to investigate ways to save. A narrow network approach restricting health plan providers will be one of those opportunities they will need to carefully evaluate.
In an effort to help consumers better understand their choices, HealthPocket is building a physician finder tool. This will give the forty-two percent of the population who will not switch their doctor an ability to see which plans their doctor accepts. It will also give consumers considering a narrow network plan the opportunity to understand which doctors participate in those plans. Though they may be willing to switch doctors in order to achieve health plan premium savings, consumers will want to satisfy themselves that the plan contains a selection of high quality doctors and medical facilities.
Results are based on responses to an online survey conducted from April 18, 2013 to April 21, 2013. Respondents were asked “If changing from your doctor to another doctor could save you money on your health plan premium costs, how much would you have to save annually to make the switch?” Respondents had the option of choosing only one of the following answers: “I would not change my doctor, I do not have a regular doctor, $ 500-$1,000, $1,000-$2,000 or $3,000 or more.” The survey was displayed within a network of over 100 different news web sites and other content sites. Demographic inferencing and methodology to acquire survey respondents was performed by technology administered by Google. Race, education, and health insurance status were not examined. Margin of error across the responses is estimated at +3.8%/ -3.7%.
Steve Zaleznick, Executive Director for Consumer Strategy and Development at HealthPocket.com, completed this survey analysis. Correspondence regarding this study can be directed to Mr. Zaleznick at email@example.com. Feedback and questions are welcome but, given the volume of email, personal responses may not be feasible.
1 See, for example, this report on consumer attitudes regarding family physicians conducted by The Physicians Foundation.
2 For a discussion of the "narrow network" phenomenon see this article published by Kaiser Health News.
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