Two state exchanges in the Northeast had the easiest exchanges to navigate while some performed poorly during phone support. However, one state rated worse than all the rest.
After glitches and system issues when some of the health insurance exchanges opened for enrollment, more than two weeks have passed during which millions explored each state’s exchange. And some need much improvement.
HealthPocket compared the exchanges for each state and Washington D.C. using a team of website testers to evaluate the exchanges on certain metrics: ability to shop for insurance anonymously; the relative effort to get to the insurance plan comparison functionality on the site; wait time for customer support phone calls; and the accuracy of customer support answers.
The testers visited the exchange sites between Oct. 11 and Oct. 15, during which time the errors that were widely reported at launch were not prevalent, according to HealthPocket.
“However … there was still a substantial disparity among the online health plan shopping experiences provided by the different exchanges,” according to the report. “Part of this discrepancy can be attributed to the fact that all the state exchanges do not use the same underlying software system. Thirty-six states use the federal government’s Healthcare.gov technology for their health plan comparisons and enrollment functionality with the remaining states administering their own web sites.”
Among the exchanges that allowed anonymous plan comparisons, the testers found that states using the federal exchange required nearly four times as many steps to get to the insurance comparison page while Connecticut’s exchange took just four steps and Rhode Island’s required just six steps.
Minnesota’s exchange, MNsure, 18 required steps was the most among single web site exchanges that allowed anonymous health plan comparisons.
“One of the challenges with online shopping is that more steps increase the risk of web site visitors abandoning the shopping process,” according to HealthPocket.
While Rhode Island’s web site did well, the state performed poorly in phone support. According to the tester, the call center representatives said March 15 was the last day of open enrollment, while it was actually March 31. Representatives in Colorado, Vermont and Washington, D.C., also gave the incorrect date.
Most exchanges had a live representative on the phone within two minutes, but some performed poorly. Washington’s exchange took 10 minutes on the phone before a live representative was reached, Minnesota took 11 minutes and a live representative never answered for Massachusetts—after three minutes a voicemail instructed the caller to leave a message and expect a response within 48 hours.
Which is worst?
According to HealthPocket, Hawaii’s health insurance exchange rated the lowest among all those reviewed. At the time of testing, two weeks after launch, the Hawaii exchange still did not allow consumers to compare health plans online. Instead, consumers were directed to an application form and told the exchange would contact them in “the coming weeks.”