If you can’t wait until the Obamacare Insurance Exchange is up an running you might be very disappointed. It has been painted as a streamlined market place where online shoppers can view plans, provisions and rates and pick the best plan.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
The truth is, the Obamacare insurance exchange may never materialize, complete with taxpayer subsidies, and if it does come to be it probably won’t be anything like you have imagined.
Like paying taxes, buying insurance is a complicated proposition, rife with jargon and high stakes: Errors can cost big money and run afoul of the law.
And like doing taxes, buying a policy on the exchange means interfacing with state and federal government agencies, too.
After more than 37 years in the health insurance business, working in many capacities and now the last few years dealing with Medicare on behalf of my clients, I can tell you that the only thing worse than trying to get help from an insurance carrier is getting a straight answer from the government.
Like the bumper sticker says, “If you like the U. S. Post Office you will LOVE government health care“.
Jargon is a big issue for consumers, who want to be able to hover a mouse over confusing terms to get a quick explanation of something they need to know, a popular feature of the tax software.
The insight comes from discussion groups convened last summer by three Colorado nonprofits. The groups found 414 people in eight urban and rural locations to help the state’s exchange board understand what people are going to need to shop on the exchange. Participants were volunteers, not scientifically selected, but organizers said their demographics roughly match those of anticipated exchange users.
The feedback tells exchange planners that they have a high mountain to climb. Consumers said they know very little about insurance and will need a lot of customer support to use the exchange.
Isn’t it a shame the Obamacare insurance exchange will all but eliminate the role of the insurance agent, many of whom have spent years learning their trade and assisting clients in finding the right plan that meets their needs and budget? Instead of relying on experienced agents, consumers will have to hope that “Suzie” is available to answer their questions and has learned enough from her 2 week training course to offer real advice and assistance.
More than half in the discussion group were under 30 years old. When asked “who helps you choose a health plan now?” 215 said “parents,” and 105 said a family member. Only 17 said they turned to the Internet for help picking a health plan now, fewer than named brokers/agents (22), employers (45) or “myself/nobody” (44).
That’s a real vote of no confidence for this process going forward.