- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

Many Americans remain uninsured or underserved by Obamacare because of technical problems or a lack of information from insurers and the new health exchanges, instead of typical obstacles such as cost, according to J.D. Power’s first shopper-satisfaction survey on the overhaul.

Surveyed shoppers said they had trouble completing their enrollment during the law’s first sign-up period due to three main reasons — a combination of technical problems (40 percent), the application taking too long (19 percent) and the website not providing sufficient information about plans (18 percent).

Nearly half (49 percent) of shoppers who did not finish their enrollment did not choose a plan because they had not yet decided which one they wanted.

“No doubt that ensuring a technologically error-free experience, along with streamlining the online enrollment process will be most impactful to future Marketplace shoppers,” said Rick Johnson, senior director of the health care practice at J.D. Power. “While the uninsured are now a smaller group, they continue to be underserved, just as they were prior to the exchanges, and continue to need more information delivered in an easy-to-understand and personal way.”

He said the new exchanges have benefited from intense media coverage, but looking ahead the marketplaces “will need to retool their marketing, information and enrollment efforts toward a new generation of uninsured to serve their needs.” 

J.D. Power surveyed 1,632 consumers who shopped for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act between November and April.

Technical problems on the web-based exchanges were a major headache for the Obama administration last fall. The federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, had well-documented problems and several of the 15 state-based exchanges struggled throughout the sign-up period.

J.D. Power found no significant difference in satisfaction among people who enrolled the federal exchange and those who used the state exchanges.

The foremost reason shoppers tried to enroll was to comply with the law’s individual mandate — 50 percent —while 40 percent shopped because they have wanted insurance but could not get it in the past.

More than half of shoppers (55 percent) said they first heard about the marketplace through the news media, while only 4 percent learned of it through a state or federal agency.

“With media coverage of the health exchanges expected to decrease over time, the insurance industry will need to develop effective communication to reach the uninsured to help fill that that information vacuum,” according to the survey.


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