In study after study, consumers consistently rate their personal physician as the most influential source they would like to turn to when selecting health insurance coverage. Their physician is consistently selected ahead of health insurance companies and online sources and generally considered equal to or better than friends and family for this purchase decision.
In a recent DSS survey, we asked consumers 18 and older to rate the level of influence of various sources if they were required to select a new health insurance plan in the near future. Personal doctors were the highest rated source with over 50% of respondents saying their doctor is “extremely influential” or “very influential.” By comparison, 48% indicated health insurance companies would have this level of influence and only 22% said the same about brokers or agents. Consumers that are very engaged in their personal health are much more likely to rate their doctor as highly influential than are disengaged consumers (64% versus 42% respectively).
What would you ask your doctor?
Those who rated their personal doctor as a strong influence were asked to indicate what information they would expect their doctor to provide to aid in the selection of a health plan. Consumers most often responded with questions that would best be possed to a health insurance plan such as:

  • What services does the plan really cover? (27% of mentions)
  • Which doctors and hospitals are included in the provider network? (22% of mentions)
  • How much various services will cost? (19% of mentions)
  • What are the copays and out-of-pocket costs? (9% of mentions)

Twenty-six percent of consumers were unable to come up with a single question they would ask their doctor, despite believing that doctor would be highly influential in their decision. Even fewer consumers posed questions that are directly relevant to physicians such as:

  • What plan would you recommend based on my health / condition? (11% of mentions)
  • How well does the health plan’s customer service respond to issues? (4% of mentions)
  • What is your experience with specific health plans? (3% of mentions)

Although personal physicians are a logical choice for feedback, based on their level of knowledge and interaction with health insurance plans, consumers have not thought through how they might leverage this knowledge for their benefit. Health plans may want to get out in front of this issue before millions of consumers rush to their physician in search of advice on which health plan to choose under health reform.