Open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act exchanges and Medicare are in the fall, which is also when many employers start their annual processes of letting employees choose a health plan for the next year. 

During open enrollment, people can review their choices and see what’s best for their situation. The best health plan for you depends on your finances, providers and what you want from a health plan. 

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There’s no one-size-fits-all plan. One person may prefer a restricted network of providers and pay less in premiums. Another may rather the lowest premiums possible with the understanding that they’ll pay more if they need care. Yet others want the largest provider network and fewest restrictions with the trade-off of higher premiums.

People like choice, but many employers are limiting health plan options. In a recent survey of 1,000 people, Insure found that employees often don’t have many choices. 

When asked: “How many choices did your employer give you when you were choosing a health plan?” nearly half of respondents said their employer didn’t offer more than one. 

  • One option -- not a high-deductible health plan -- 27% (down from 34% in a similar Insure survey in 2019)
  • One option -- a high-deductible health plan -- 21% (up from 16% in 2019)
  • Two or three options -- 46% (up from 37% in 2019)
  • More than three -- 7% (down from 8% in 2019)

This lack of choice could hurt a company’s ability to woo and keep talent. The survey asked about the importance of a business' health insurance when deciding on a job or staying with the company. We asked people to rank importance from 1 to 5 with 5 being most important. 

Twenty-five percent ranked health insurance as a 5 and 45% gave it a 4. Only 5% gave health insurance as either a 1 or 2 (not important). 

The good news for employers that people seem satisfied with their job's health plans. Three-quarters of respondents said they were happy with their health plans. Only 16% said they weren't happy with their plan and 8% wasn't sure. 

Find out more about workplace health insurance.

 

What’s most important when choosing a health plan? 

This year's survey found people put the most importance on a plan's breadth of services. Here's what's most important for respondents when choosing a health plan: Healthsurvey

  • Breadth of services -- 29% (up from 19% in 2019)
  • Low premiums -- 26%
  • Low deductibles -- 22%
  • Provider network -- 12%
  • Not needing a referral (such as a PPO) -- 11% 

Respondents said they would rather pay lower premiums with a higher deductible than higher premiums with a lower deductible. Fifty-eight percent favored lower premiums and higher deductibles with the other 42% preferring the reverse. 

They also said that they would rather access more providers and pay more for health insurance than have a restricted network of providers and lower premiums. Fifty-four percent said they prefer more access to providers and higher premiums, while 46% want a restricted network with lower premiums. 

So, in effect, people want more choice, which is common in PPOs, and lower premiums with higher deductibles, which are HDHPs.

 

Not many enrolled in short-term health plans

The federal government have made it easier to get a short-term health plan

The low-cost/low-coverage plans are available to most Americans. Only people who live in states that forbid the plans don’t have the option. 

The Trump adminsitration promoted short-term health plans as a way to provide more affordable coverage. However, we found not many have signed up for a short-term plan and many don't even know about them. 

  • 6% said they've changed to a short-term plan (up from 4% in 2019)
  • 14% said they plan to change to a short-term plan (up from 9% in 2019)
  • 32% don't expect to change to a short-term plan (down from 45% in 2019)
  • 48% don't know about short-term plans (up from 41% in 2019)

Check out other results from the health care survey.

Methodology: Insure.com commissioned OP4G to ask 1,000 people in October 2020 about their health insurance.