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The Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces present an important opportunity for expanding coverage but consumers face enormous challenges in navigating through enrollment and re-enrollment. We tested the effectiveness of a behaviorally informed policy tool—plan recommendations—in improving marketplace decisions.
Data were gathered from a community sample of 656 lower-income, minority, rural residents of Virginia.
We conducted an incentive-compatible, computer-based experiment using a hypothetical marketplace like the one consumers face in the federally-facilitated marketplaces, and examined their decision quality. Participants were randomly assigned to a control condition or three types of plan recommendations: social normative, physician, and government. For participants randomized to a plan recommendation condition, the plan that maximized expected earnings, and minimized total expected annual health care costs, was recommended.
Primary data were gathered using an online choice experiment and questionnaire.
Plan recommendations resulted in a 21 percentage point increase in the probability of choosing the earnings maximizing plan, after controlling for participant characteristics. Two conditions, government or providers recommending the lowest cost plan, resulted in plan choices that lowered annual costs compared to marketplaces where no recommendations were made.
As millions of adults grapple with choosing plans in marketplaces and whether to switch plans during open enrollment, it is time to consider marketplace redesigns and leverage insights from the behavioral sciences to facilitate consumers’ decisions.
© 2016 Barnes et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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