Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing


When it comes to providing help on choosing a health insurance plan, nothing beats a real live licensed insurance advisor.

Don’t take our word for it; listen to the folks who told the Urban Institute Health Policy Center about their experience in applying for health coverage during the last open enrollment period.

The vast majority (83 percent) of those surveyed by the Urban Institute said that the assistance they received from insurance agents and brokers was the most helpful in their quest to obtain coverage. The help they received from navigators and assisters, program agencies such as Medicaid, call centers and websites didn’t rate as highly. Call centers took a beating in the survey, with only slightly more than half of respondents saying they found call centers to be helpful.

Despite the problems with HealthCare​.gov and state websites in the beginning of open enrollment season, the vast majority of adults who looked for information on health insurance plans in the marketplaces used a website. But about half of adults used a source other than a website to obtain health plan information.

Two-thirds of those who used websites described the sites as helpful. But websites were not generally considered as helpful as most other information sources, although adults who live in states that operate their own marketplace websites were more likely to have a favorable experience with them than those who live in states that rely on the federal marketplace.

The survey showed some differences in the way different ethnic and economic groups sought information on health coverage. For example, Hispanic and low-income adults were more likely to rely on in-person assistance and less likely to use a website.

The evidence revealed in the Urban Institute survey shows that although websites remain an important piece of the health care enrollment experience, they don’t take the place of talking to someone who is an expert.




Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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