Two-thirds of consumers would be willing to pay more for a health plan that offers a choice of physicians, according to a recent survey.
Consumers said they want plans that allow them to keep their primary-care physicians and that have board-certified physicians, according to a study conducted for MODERN HEALTHCARE by National Research Corp., a Lincoln, Neb., healthcare marketing research firm.
The telephone survey of 1,000 heads of households was stratified by age, gender and area of residence. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3%.
Asked to choose the two most important criteria in a plan, one-fourth picked keeping their current primary-care physician as No. 1. This was the top-rated criterion regardless of current health plan type, but those in indemnity plans regarded it as more significant than did HMO enrollees.
Keeping their primary-care physicians also was very important to respondents 45 or older, those who used physicians frequently in the past year, and those who lacked a choice of plans the last time they enrolled.
Ranked second, selected by 12% of consumers, was a plan's inclusion of board-certified physicians. Respondents viewed board certification as a more important indicator of physician quality than patient ratings of physicians or evaluations by outside accrediting organizations.
The survey found 65% of households would pay an extra $20 a month out of pocket to have their own physicians or board-certified physicians in their plans. Those willing to pay more tended to be under age 65, be college-educated, earn $50,000 a year or more, have small children, and have had contact with physicians in the past year. Willingness to pay more did not vary by current health plan or health status.
Given broad categories, consumers said the most important criterion is the availability of satisfactory physicians. Second was hospital quality. Ease of access, the quality of information available about a plan, and ratings by outside organizations were considered less important.
When assessing hospitals, respondents chose access to preferred hospitals and high patient-satisfaction scores as the top attributes. Ratings from an accreditation agency ranked third and convenience was least important.
Most respondents evaluated their current plans positively, but one fourth were at least somewhat likely to switch plans at the next opportunity. Consumers who did not have a choice when they last enrolled were more likely to want to switch, if given the chance.
Asked what would prevent them from joining a plan, 24% of consumers said lack of physician choice. Fifteen percent said high cost. Other barriers were lack of coverage for pre-existing conditions, 6%; poor payment of claims, 4%; and too much paperwork, 3%.
The majority cited high ratings and few complaints from enrollees as the most important attributes in choosing a plan.
When consumers were asked to identify the most important reason for selecting a health plan, about half of those surveyed named the ability to choose their current primary-care physician or the inclusion of board-certified physicians. The most important hospital factor-inclusion of preferred hospital-ranked as less important than either of those issues, as well as having a choice of specialists. This chart measures the most important overall attributes and shows the relative importance of physician, hospital and health plan issues rated on a scale of most important to least important.