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Job change, not choice, prompting most switches in employee health plans

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 11, 2013

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Fewer Americans are switching their employer-based coverage, and if they are, it’s most likely because of job changes, according to research from the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Only one in eight workers dropped his or her health plan in 2010, compared with one in six in 2003. As was the case 10 years ago, “about 5% of people with employer coverage switched plans in 2010 because of a job change,” the study said. Of the 7.5% who switched their coverage for other reasons, most did so because of change in their employers’ benefits, although some were looking for less expensive or better-quality plans (link).

“These findings suggest that consumer choice plays a relatively small role in health plan switching, with most changes resulting from job changes or changes in employers’ plan offerings,” said Peter J. Cunningham, PhD, the center’s senior fellow and director of quantitative research as well as the author of the study, in a statement.

More frequent switching among plan offerings could occur in the future, especially in small businesses, when plan choices increase under Affordable Care Act provisions. As the study noted, the downside to this is less stable relationships between patients and the health care professionals who might not accept all plans.

The study’s results were drawn from the center’s 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey, examining plan switching among 7,600 nonelderly respondents with employer-based coverage.

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