Each fall, the U.S. government promotes the Open Enrollment Period, established for and by the Affordable Care Act. This enrollment period signals the opening of state-run health insurance marketplaces that enable citizens to compare health insurance plans and providers, and select their plan for the coming year.
A recent survey of 1,000 Californians shed some light on the typical behaviors and thought processes many Americans have about the Open Enrollment Period and the current health care system in general. The following findings and statistics illustrate why many Americans hesitate when making decisions about health insurance and why it's so crucial to make the most informed decision possible.
Californians Are Overwhelmed by the Open Enrollment Period
About half of Californians who participated in this survey said that selecting the best health care plan for them is either "extremely" or "somewhat" stressful. Per the survey, many Californians would rather wash the dishes (46 percent), go to the DMV (22 percent), or get a root canal (7 percent) than research health insurance plans. While this viewpoint may be relatable for many, it clouds the critical nature of this decision and how it could impact an individual and their family for potentially the entire year.
Despite how important this health insurance decision is, many people are too busy, stressed, confused by, or unconcerned with the process during the enrollment period. Nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of Californians surveyed admitted to spending less than an hour on this potentially life-changing choice.
Some respondents may have stayed with the same, or a similar, plan or provider as the year before, which would reduce the time they need to spend on this decision. But otherwise, health insurance decisions are nothing to take lightly.
Why Hesitation Isn't Necessarily a Bad Thing
That said, because this decision is so critical, hesitation on the final decision could inform and improve your thought process. Regardless of why some people make a quick decision about health insurance — or no decision at all, thus never enrolling — having all the necessary information prior to your decision could vastly improve your outlook after.
More than half of the California survey respondents (55 percent) admitted they wished they had made a more informed decision once the designated enrollment period closed. That percentage jumps to 63 percent for millennials, who are currently around ages 22 to 38.
As for more specific issues, more than one quarter (27 percent) of respondents wished they had researched whether their previous preferred doctor belonged to their new plan's network. About 70 percent of Californians have a preferred doctor, clinic, or practice they routinely visit, yet nearly half (47 percent) of respondents select their plan before seeing if their doctor is in the plan's network. State health care marketplace agency California Covered also concluded in a 2017 report that California residents tend to be most concerned with affordability of health insurance plans before other factors.
Some hesitation is recommendable here. Rushing this decision could mean losing your usual doctor and preferred surroundings. But arming yourself with all the information possible and taking the time to research care and insurance providers before making your final decision could save you incalculable financial, mental, emotional, and physical costs.
If you haven't yet enrolled in an insurance plan for 2018, you may still qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Those extensions are primarily offered after certain life events, such as getting married, having a child, or losing previous health insurance coverage from an employer or other source.
When it comes to your health care and insurance, it's never in your disinterest to perform independent research, or to ask questions and seek counsel from trusted experts. Knowledge is power, and staying informed means additional protection and potential benefit for you and your family.