Buyers opt for cheaper plans

August 1, 2010

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that 77% of enrollees with non-group coverage faced premium increases in the past year and "ever skimpier coverage."

NATIONAL REPORTS-In a more scientific picture of the individual market, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that 77% of enrollees with non-group coverage faced premium increases in the past year, and "ever skimpier coverage is as big an issue for people as premium increases," says President and CEO Drew Altman.

Those 77% were asked for an average of 20% higher premium payments, but not all of them remained with their existing plans. Sixteen percent switched plans or bought down to lesser coverage, realizing a 3% average premium reduction. Those that did remain ended up paying 18% more on average.

"For those with pre-existing conditions, there is some sense of being stuck in their plan," says Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of Kaiser's public opinion and survey research.

However, 74% of respondents say they're likely to keep buying coverage a year from now. Half believe it would be difficult to switch plans because of pre-existing conditions, premium prices or the task of shopping around.

Brodie says those who buy their own insurance are somewhat older than those with employer-sponsored coverage, but they do have similar incomes and health status. Nearly half are self-employed or small-business owners.