Originally posted July 10, 2014 by Kathryn Mayer on www.benefitspro.com.

The fall open enrollment period needs some major work, as new analysis out Thursday finds low satisfaction and little results, with many consumers remaining “uninsured and underserved,” after the first shopping experience in the exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Act.

The inaugural J.D. Power 2014 Health Insurance Marketplace Shopper Study, which looked at enrollment satisfaction among more than 1,600 consumers who shopped for coverage under PPACA November 2013 through April 2014, found that satisfaction during the first signup period averaged 615 on a 1,000-point scale.

The results indicate that health plans need to “retool” their efforts ahead of 2015 open enrollment, which begins Nov. 15.

“No doubt that ensuring a technologically error-free experience, along with streamlining the online enrollment process will be most impactful to future marketplace shoppers,” said Rick Johnson, senior director of the health care practice at J.D. Power. “While the uninsured are now a smaller group, they continue to be underserved, just as they were prior to the exchanges, and continue to need more information delivered in an easy-to-understand and personal way.”

J.D. Power found that many shoppers began the enrollment process but had problems completing their plan purchase at the time of the survey primarily due to three reasons:

  • A combination of technical problems experienced during the enrollment process (40 percent);
  • The application process taking too long (19 percent); and
  • The website not having enough information about the plans to make a selection (18 percent).

Additionally, 49 percent of shoppers who didn’t complete enrollment did not choose a plan during their initial shopping experience because they had not yet decided which plan they wanted.

The technical problems for HealthCare.gov have been well-documented.

The survey found that satisfaction was higher among those enrollees who got in-person help from brokers and navigators.

When shoppers used a navigator — a certified agent or broker used by 17 percent of shoppers — during the shopping process, satisfaction rose to a score of 631 compared to 611 for those who didn’t use a navigator.

Though it was the least common way to sign up for a health plan, in-person enrollment had a higher satisfaction rate at 715 points. Online enrollment had a satisfaction score of just 597 while selecting a plan on the phone had a score of 623.

That’s in line with previous research from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which found that brokers are the highest-ranked of all information sources on PPACA and enrollment help by consumers.

But that finding also means carriers and brokers have more work to do, too, in working to engage consumers. J.D. Power said that “health insurance companies and the exchanges should continue to find ways to personalize the insurance shopping experience for consumers.”

“When the dust finally settles later in 2014 and in 2015, for health insurance providers to thrive in this new environment, they will need to retool their marketing, information and enrollment efforts toward a new generation of uninsured to serve their needs,” Johnson said.