Most consumers won’t nix HIX

Contrary to popular belief, consumers are aware of health insurance exchanges (HIX)—and they show strong interest in using them to shop for coverage—says a new study from marketing information company J.D. Power and Associates.

Good news: HIX will open for enrollment October 1 under the Affordable Care Act, which requires virtually every individual to obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty. By 2019, 32 million previously uninsured individuals will be covered. For hospitals, this will increase admissions and decrease the amount of funds they spend on unreimbursed care. The new study indicates consumers are getting with the program.

For the 2013 Member Health Plan Study, more than 33,000 members of 136 commercial health plans were surveyed this past December and January. Almost three-quarters (73%) of members who purchase insurance on their own, instead of through employers, say they will shop for coverage using the exchanges. Overall, 48% of both group and individual plan members indicated they are interested in the exchanges.

"As healthcare costs continue to increase and members pay a higher percentage of the premium, health plan members are increasingly aware of exactly what they are getting for their premium," said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates, in a news release. "If a member has experienced problems and perceives the possibility of having more control over costs through exchanges, this new purchasing method may become more appealing."

Plans sold through HIX will take effect beginning in 2014.