HAP Blog

If You Build It…Will They Come?

January 30, 2014

The famous line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come” has been used many times to suggest that sizeable investments in major projects or products (minus the market research) can still generate consumer engagement. Not so when it comes to the health insurance marketplace website, healthcare.gov.

A new national survey of the uninsured has revealed that creating healthcare.gov––glitches or no glitches––was not a sure bet to getting the uninsured engaged and enrolled.

The survey results revealed that, despite all the hype, only a fraction of the uninsured had been to the marketplace website to explore coverage. In fact, the biggest barrier to being insured was a prevailing belief among uninsured consumers that affordable, quality insurance was not available. Few know about the financial assistance/subsidies that can make coverage possible. As a result, the uninsured “did not come.”

I found the results to be somewhat surprising and encouraging, and contrary to what is routinely being reported in the media. Applying these findings into future outreach and enrollment efforts could have major implications for the ultimate success of covering the uninsured.

Commissioned by Enroll America, and conducted by PerryUndem, the survey provided a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the public awareness and advertising efforts at the halfway point of the health insurance open enrollment period.

Here are some of the major findings: 

  • 70 percent had not visited the marketplace website
  • 69 percent identified “I can’t afford it” as the reason they do not have health insurance, 69 percent were unaware of financial assistance or tax subsidies available at the marketplace
  • 59 percent lacked knowledge of plans offered on the marketplace––many assumed coverage would have to be poor quality if the cost was low   

And most importantly: 

  • 82 percent would be likely to sign up for a quality health insurance plan if they could afford it

It seems more of the uninsured would get coverage if they had a better understanding of the coverage options and financial assistance programs that are available to them. Re-directing public awareness campaigns and outreach efforts to focus more specifically on these two points is key to success.

The survey results suggest that most consumer decisions to become insured will be made based on logical responses to the situation, given the information they have and as they understand it. We should not be surprised that without all the facts, a trip to the marketplace website held no appeal.

The hospital community must continue to help ensure that these people have access to the right information to make the best possible decisions about health care coverage. By stepping up our role as consumer advocates, we can improve the quality of life for many more Pennsylvanians.  

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