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Americans cite brand as one of main catalysts when insurance shopping

Posted On Mon, June 24, 2013

While the vast majority of consumers today say that insurance rates are one of the most important factors they take into consideration before purchasing a plan, the brand of these policies also play an integral role, according to new polling data.

Among more than 38,800 participants to a survey that asked consumers to explain some of their insurance shopping habits, nearly 85 percent of respondents said that the brand or name plate of an insurer was "somewhat" or "very" important to them before deciding which policy was best.

However, branding appeared to play a more important aspect of insurance purchasing for certain age groups. For example, among 18-to-34-year-olds, about 80 percent of men and women found the brand to be crucial. it was the most important, though, to those who were above the age of 55. Among this age grouping, 88 percent said the brand could be a make or break feature.

Insured find branding more important than uninsured
Debra Richman, senior vice president of healthcare strategy and business development at Harris Interactive, noted that what was particularly revealing about the study was not only the different ways in which brand affected buyers' inclination to purchase a plan, but how unimportant brand was among those who weren't already insured. For example, of those who did not have a current health plan, about 70 percent said they considered brand in their buying decision. But among those who already had a plan, 85 percent cited brand as an important feature.

She added that what may ultimately be the difference in which provider to go with is how professional agents and insurers are in their customer dealings, or in other words how good the customer service is.

Blue Cross Blue Shield ranks highest
As for which insurance brands consumers rated the most favorably, Blue Cross and Blue Shield earned 2013's Health Insurance Brand of the Year award, the fourth straight year in which it's attained the distinction. In second place was UnitedHealthcare, followed by Health Net.

With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act set to go into full effect in 2014, it may have never been more important for consumers to adequately assess the quality and service of coverage whether they're purchasing a plan with their employer or buying it separately with some other private insurer.

A key component in this determination is customer service. Health insurance experts say that a good provider will make sure that the customer is the priority by guiding them through the purchase process. There are a variety of ways in which customers will be in touch with their insurer - whether it's filing a claim, updating a policy, changing coverage amounts or asking a question - and all of these factors should be kept in mind.

Another way to judge an insurer is talking to those who've dealt with the same insurer in the past. Talk to friends who've had dealings with the insurer in the past about the ease with which they were able to complete and receive the money need after a claim was made. Alternatively, policyholders may want to review consumer alert websites like the Better Business Bureau to see what current or former customers are saying about an insurer.

In addition to taking into account what premiums levels are, when looking at insurance quotes, it's wise to see if the prices also include information on what the plans include. These coverages can then be stacked against a similar policy to see which one is more comprehensive.

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