Burwell says health care consumers should shop ’til they drop

Ok, so those weren’t her exact words, but HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is quoted by CNBC as saying, “Our message to returning marketplace customers is simple: Shopping may save you money.”  How much money? About $500 per year for similar coverage according to the article.

However, as the New York Times reports, saving money may require some sacrifices. In an article entitled “Obamacare Shopping Is More Important Than Ever,” Margot Sanger-Katz explains that people “may have to change not just their insurer but also their doctor if they want to find a cheaper plan.” That’s because most “of the lowest-cost plans in the marketplace limit the doctors and hospitals they cover,” which can be disruptive for people with ongoing medical conditions.

About a quarter of marketplace enrollees switched plans last year, and the percentage is expected to be even higher during this year’s open enrollment period. What that means for agents who specialize in individual health Insurance—especially those with a private exchange site, whose goal is to funnel as many people to the site as possible—the best source of leads may be people who already have coverage. This is contrary to what we normally tell you, which is to focus on those who have not yet signed up for coverage.

It’s also worth noting that agents who don’t have a private exchange site may have trouble growing their business this year since they’ll spend much of their time trying to save their existing clients. With premiums increasing, networks shrinking, and carriers entering and exiting various markets, consumers will want to shop, and that means brokers without a technology solution will have little time to prospect.

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