Nearly half of health plan members in the group and individual markets nationwide say they are interested in using a state exchange to purchase health insurance, according to a survey released Monday by J.D. Power and Associates.

In the group market, those who have no choice in health insurance through their employer expressed more interest in exploring options on the state exchange (50% versus 36%), according to the 2013 Member Health Plan Study of 33,000 participants in 136 commercial health plans.

“Income-eligible members with high out-of-pocket costs and less tenure with a health plan are most likely to try exchanges,” says Rick Millard, senior director of the health care practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The exchange also appeals to those working at small companies [that] want to take more direct control over their health care expenses.”

Public exchanges are still under development in many states as state officials decide if they will run the exchange, the federal government will, or they will operate under a partnership model. With such uncertainty, it’s predicted that employee questions will spike related to exchanges as 2014 approaches.

For those who purchase directly and not through an employer, nearly three-fourths (73%) will shop for coverage using a state exchange. For those with a high-deductible health plan, 59% indicate they are interested in using the exchanges, compared to 45% of those in low-deductible plans.

Further, service quality may play a role, as 60% of those who contacted their health plan in the previous year with a problem say they will look to the public exchanges, according to the survey.

“As health care 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,” Mallard says. “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.”


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