The Kaiser Family Foundation Annual ACA Survey of those who have purchased individual health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has just been released. The results reflect the experiences and perceptions of those who obtained or renewed individual coverage under the ACA during the open enrollment for plans for 2016. These experiences and perceptions are compared with those of enrollees in the individual market for the previous two years as well as with those who have coverage through an employer-sponsored Group Health Plan. There are two items in the survey worth pointing out.
The Role of Agents and Brokers
The study reports “Among all those who got help with enrollment, the most frequently-reported source of assistance was health insurance brokers or agents (15 percent, including 34 percent of those who switched plans), followed by navigators and other enrollment assistance programs (8 percent), family members or friends (7 percent), and health plan representatives (6 percent).” What this means is that insurance agents and brokers were far and away the most desired source of help to enroll in a Marketplace or non-Marketplace Qualified Health Plan. Further, when individuals who had coverage in the previous year went to actively change their policy, even a higher percentage sought out the assistance of an agent or broker as opposed to other forms of assistance. In fact, the percentages of those seeking all other forms of assistance for actively changing their policies went down. This indicates that the more experience consumers had with the Marketplace the more they valued and trusted the help of agent and brokers.
The Partisan Divide
The survey reports on the actual experience of those enrolled in individual plans under the ACA in great detail. What was the greatest predictor of the overall opinion of enrollees toward the Affordable Care Act? Was it their actual experience with their specific health plan? No, “Even among this population – whose views one might expect to be divided more on the basis of experience – the biggest differences in opinion are along partisan lines, with 75 percent of Democrats having a favorable view of the law, 79 percent of Republicans expressing an unfavorable view, and independents divided (40 percent favorable, 44 percent unfavorable).” Is it time to consider if partisanship is playing too great a role and actual experience too small a role in our considerations about the type of healthcare we will have in this country?