In a new HealthPocket consumer survey, 42 percent of respondents said they would either see the doctor more frequently or get a medical procedure they had previously delayed if they had better health insurance. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) broadens health insurance coverage and benefits, the survey results suggest that health insurance premiums could rise in 2015 to cover increased medical service use starting in 2014.
While the correlation between medical service utilization and health insurance premiums is well documented, what has not been explored is whether the expansion of health benefits under the ACA would affect medical service demand. When survey takers were asked, “Would better health insurance coverage lead you to see the doctor more often or get a medical procedure you had put off?” more than one out of four respondents answered that they would see the doctor more frequently, and an additional 15 percent answered that they would get a medical treatment they had put off.
“These results suggest that many consumers will become more active in their use of healthcare starting next January, when many consumers have first-time coverage or simply better health insurance under Obamacare,” said Bruce Telkamp, CEO of HealthPocket. “On the positive site, this should lead to improved health and cost savings in the long term through preventive care that offsets the need for more expensive acute care. On the other hand, we do expect to see some increases in premiums in the short term, to mitigate the use of a larger volume of doctor services, which are already in short supply.”
Beginning in 2014, health insurance plans will have to meet new minimum coverage standards called the “Essential Health Benefits.” On average, HealthPocket found individual health plans currently provide only 76 percent of the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits, signaling significant plan improvements and corresponding increases in medical usage. Estimating a two-year period for consumers to exhaust pent-up demand for healthcare, the actual baseline for the effect of the ACA on premiums won’t be evident until 2016.
This InfoPoll survey of 1,356 people was conducted between June 5 and June 7, 2013. The methodology to acquire survey respondents who approximate national statistics on age, gender, and region was implemented by Google. See the InfoPoll to review the detailed findings. To compare premiums for health plans in any geographic area, visit HealthPocket’s health plan comparison tool. HealthPocket also recently launched a new physician health plan search tool, which allows consumers find all health plans that their doctor may accept.