Most Americans said they are prepared to select a health plan during this year’s open enrollment season, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spur interest in virtual care for medical services and digital fitness apps to help people pursue at-home fitness routines.
These are some of the findings from the sixth-annual UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, which examines Americans’ opinions about various areas of health care, including open enrollment, technology trends, wellness programs and health plan preferences. Key findings this year include:
- Majority of Americans surveyed said they are prepared to select a health plan during the fall’s open enrollment period. A survey-record 82% of insured Americans said they are prepared to select a health plan during open enrollment, with baby boomers (86%) and Gen Xers (85%) the most confident; compared to millennials (79%) and Gen Z (71%).
- COVID-19 has influenced the health plan some people intend to choose. Many respondents with a health plan (44%) said COVID-19 influenced, or will influence, their preferred health plan, with 16% interested in an option with lower out-of-pocket costs; 13% looking for more well-being programs or resources; 8% seeking more comprehensive or richer benefits; and 8% wanting a national health plan instead of a regional one. Members of Gen Z were the most likely to be influenced (60%), while baby boomers (31%) were the least.
- Many Americans are interested in using virtual resources for medical services, as well as turning to technology to comparison shop for care. More than half (53%) said they are interested in using digital devices, such as smartphones, tablets or laptops, to access care, reflecting the surging interest in telehealth due to the persistent spread of COVID-19. When it comes to comparison shopping, 50% of respondents said they had used the internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for health care during the past year.
- Many employees say wellness programs have improved their health. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of survey respondents who are employed and have access to wellness programs said the initiatives have made a positive impact on their health. If offered as part of an employer-sponsored wellness program, more than half (51%) said they would be interested in using a digital fitness resource, such as the Peloton App.
With access to health benefits and care more important than ever amid COVID-19, this year’s survey indicates growing confidence among some Americans in making more informed benefit decisions during open enrollment, as well as continued interest in using technology to evaluate and access health care,” said Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare. “We hope this year’s survey results can contribute to keeping people better informed about their health care benefits and choices.”
Open Enrollment Preparedness and Preferences
When it comes to time spent researching health benefits by people with health insurance during open enrollment, 28% said they each year devote less than one hour to the process; nearly one-third (31%) usually spend between one and three hours; and fewer respondents (21%) said they typically allocate more than three hours. Among respondents who actively research health plan options, more than one-quarter (29%) said they expect to spend more time evaluating their benefits this year due to COVID-19.
Many respondents (81%) with health benefits affirmed the importance of specialty benefits, agreeing that having vision and dental coverage options is “important” during open enrollment.
Technology and Transparency Trends
Technology continues to help play an increasingly important role in how people access health information and care. More than half (53%) of survey respondents said they are interested in using virtual care in the future to access medical services, underscoring the greater than 2,800% increase in the use of telehealth amid the COVID-19 pandemic1. Even after the pandemic ends, 20% of respondents said they would prefer a virtual relationship with a primary care physician rather than in person.
With recent efforts to encourage greater transparency related to health care quality and cost information, 50% of respondents said they have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for medical services. Millennials (64%) and members of Gen Z (54%) were the most likely to use comparison shopping resources, compared to Gen X (50%) and baby boomers (38%). Among all comparison shoppers, 56% said the experience influenced their decision-making process, with an equal number (28%) saying the process prompted them to change either the health care provider or facility they selected for the treatment.
Fitness Trends and Wellness Programs
Since the emergence of COVID-19, 40% of survey respondents said their exercise habits have changed, including 24% who say they exercise less now and 16% indicating they work out more. Most survey respondents who work out said walking (61%) has been their preferred method of exercise, followed by running (27%) and weight training (26%). Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents said they use a digital fitness app as part of their exercise routine, half of whom added this resource for the first time after the emergence of COVID-19. Due also to the pandemic, among people who previously exercised at public gyms, 12% said they have no intention of ever returning.
Among people who said having access to an employer-sponsored well-being program enhanced their health, 35% said the initiative helped them improve their nutrition; 34% said it helped improve their mental health; 34% said it motivated them to pay more attention to their health; and 33% reported improved sleep.
For complete survey results, click here.
About the Survey
The 2021 UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey was conducted Sept. 10-12, 2021, using Engine INSIGHTS CARAVAN® online survey of 1,013 U.S. adults 18 and older. The margin of error was plus or minus 3% at the 95% confidence level.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. In the United States, UnitedHealthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.3 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. The company also provides health benefits and delivers care to people through owned and operated health care facilities in South America. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health care company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @UHC on Twitter.
1 UnitedHealthcare internal analysis, 2021.