4 in 10 Consumers Say COVID-19 is Influencing Health Plan Choices

4 in 10 Consumers Say COVID-19 is Influencing Health Plan Choices

35% will spend more time researching their options than usual
Open enrollment for health insurance

With open enrollment beginning for many employees, a sizable percentage are making changes to their health plans with the pandemic in mind.

More than 4 in 10 workers with a health plan — 44% — said COVID-19 has either influenced — or will influence — their preferred plan options for the upcoming year, according to a new survey by health insurance provider UnitedHealthcare.

Not only are consumers spending more time scrutinizing their options, many are also looking to get more services for their money.

Costs, well-being programs top of mind

Of those employees who are opting to make changes to their health plans because of COVID-19:

  • 16% are seeking an option that has lower out-of-pocket costs
  • 11% are in search of more well-being programs or resources
  • 10% want more comprehensive benefits
  • 6% would prefer a national health plan rather than a regional one

More than a third of respondents — 35% — said the health crisis has inspired them to spend more time conducting research into their health plan options than they usually do.

In previous years, 23% said they typically spend less than one hour researching their options, 37% said they usually spend between one to three hours and 23% said they generally spend more than three hours doing so. Spending more time researching options may give consumers greater knowledge about health insurance in general. A survey conducted by ValuePenguin earlier this year found that many consumers find their health insurance coverage to be confusing.

The youngest workers were most likely to be motivated by the pandemic to make changes to their health benefits options, with 68% of Gen Z respondents doing so compared to 29% of baby boomers.

Demand for virtual care options surges

More than half of respondents — 56% — said they are interested in plan options that would allow them to use digital devices like smartphones and laptops to access their health care. Also, 55% of respondents reported using the Internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for health care services in the past year, and 25% said they turn to online or mobile resources first when evaluating symptoms or health issues.

Most respondents — 78% — said they felt prepared for open enrollment. Gen Xers were most confident in their preparedness with 84% feeling ready followed by:

  • 83% of baby boomers
  • 72% of millennials
  • 62% of Gen Z

A majority of respondents were also interested in having access to specialty benefits. For example, 84% said it was important to them to have vision and dental coverage options this open enrollment season.

Overall, more than two-thirds of respondents with a health plan — 68% — said they have been satisfied with their benefits options during the pandemic.

Methodology: UnitedHealthcare surveyed 1,004 adults between Sept. 11-13, 2020. The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points at the 95% confidence level. UnitedHealthcare defined the generational breakdown as follows: Gen Z respondents were those between the ages of 18-23, millennials were those between the ages of 24-39, Gen X were those between 40-55 and baby boomers were those between 56-74.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.