Few Americans Switch Employer Health Plans for Better Quality, Lower Costs

NIHCR Research Brief No. 12
January 2013
Peter J. Cunningham

About one in eight (12.8%) nonelderly Americans with employer coverage switched health plans in 2010—down from one in six (17.2%) in 2003, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). As was true in 2003, about 5 percent of people with employer coverage switched plans in 2010 because of a job change. However, the proportion of people younger than 65 with employer coverage changing plans for other reasons fell from 12 percent in 2003 to 7.5 percent in 2010—in both years the main reason for switching plans was a change in employer benefit offerings. Less than 2.5 percent of workers in 2010—about the same proportion as in 2003—initiated a change in plans to reduce their health insurance costs or to get a better quality plan, such as better benefits or a more desirable provider network. 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. National health reform may create opportunities to increase plan choice among people with employer-sponsored coverage, particularly those in small firms, resulting in more frequent switching of health plans. However, a potential downside of more switching is less stable patient-provider relationships, such as in a medical home.

This article is available at the National Institute for Health Care Reform Web site by clicking here.