Switching Health Insurance Plans: Results from a Health Survey

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The study is designed to provide an informal summary of what is known about consumer switching of health insurance plans and to contribute to knowledge about what motivates consumers who choose to switch health plans. Do consumers switch plans largely on the basis of critical reflection and assessment of information about the quality, and price? The literature suggests that switching is complicated, not always possible, and often overwhelming to consumers. Price does not always determine choice. Quality is very hard for consumers to understand. Results from a random sample survey (n = 2791) of the Alkmaar region of the Netherlands are reported here. They suggest that rather than embracing the opportunity to be active critical consumers, individuals are more likely to avoid this role by handing this activity off to a group purchasing organization. There is little evidence that consumers switch plans on the basis of critical reflection and assessment of information about quality and price. The new data reported here confirm the importance of a group purchasing organizations. In a free-market-health insurance system confidence in purchasing groups may be more important for health insurance choice than health informatics. This is not what policy makers expected and might result a less efficient health insurance market system.

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