We have always known agents are awesome, and we are glad the rest of the country finally seems to be catching on. A study released this week, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published by the Urban Institute, a Washington DC-based and generally pro-Affordable Care Act (ACA) think tank, found that 84% of consumers surveyed thought that their health insurance agent or broker was the most valuable resource during open enrollment. Agents and brokers were the clear leader in sources of credible ACA assistance, beating out navigators, other assisters and the call center, which generated the worst marks. It is important to note that the survey results only cover October 1, 2013, when the exchanges opened, through the end of March; it does not account for the assistance agents and brokers provided to consumers during the extended open enrollment period. The survey is based off of data collected by the Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS), a quarterly survey of the non-elderly that is designed to provide timely information on implementation issues under the ACA, changes in health insurance coverage and related health outcomes.
The study found that websites were the most common source of information; satisfaction rates in terms of website content were higher in states operating their own exchanges than they were in states using Healthcare.gov. While this comes as no surprise to any of us, the call centers were found to be the worst resource to consumers with only 58% of consumers finding them helpful. Navigators, certified application counselors and in-person assistors came in second, next to agents and brokers, as a helpful resource, with 77% of consumers naming them as a helpful enrollment resource.
Additionally, half of surveyed adults who obtained information on exchange health plans only used a website. Nearly one-third used other sources in addition to a website and one-fifth used other sources instead of a website.