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Access to Physicians Is Consumers' Highest Priority When Choosing a Health Plan, According to New Study

WellPoint Institute of Health Care Knowledge Releases Results of First


INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- WellPoint Institute of Health Care Knowledge today released its first study: "Choosing a Health Plan: What Should Consumers Look For?" The Institute regularly issues evidence-based research studies, fact sheets and policy statements designed to help create more informed consumers and improve health care for all, including WellPoint's 35 million members.

Based on responses from more than 100,000 consumers, employers and industry thought leaders, the breadth of a health plan's network is the highest priority when choosing a health plan.

Highlighting the need for consumer engagement, the study also found that only one-third of consumers were knowledgeable regarding what services were covered by their current health plan.

"Millions of Americans are in the middle of open enrollment season, a 6 to 8 week period when employees have the option to change their health plan," said Sam Nussbaum, chief medical officer, WellPoint, Inc. "As employees become more informed health care consumers and are paying a greater portion of their overall health care costs, it is especially important for consumers to take a careful look at those benefits that are of particular value to their health care needs, including pharmacy benefits, wellness and health improvement programs."

According to "Choosing a Health Plan: What Should Consumers Look For?" the following categories were found to strongly influence consumers' overall experiences with their current health plans and are important factors to consider when choosing a health plan:

-- Choice of networks and doctors;

-- Affordability and health plan value;

-- Health and wellness tools and services;

-- Health plan communications regarding how to find a doctor or clinic

within a network and benefit coverage;

-- Access to information on the cost and quality of services and


-- Quality of customer service.

Based on study results, the Institute suggested a series of questions for consumers to ask before choosing their health plan, including:

-- Am I satisfied with my current choice of networks and doctors?

-- Are my current doctors covered by this health plan?

-- What is my household's current and anticipated health care service

usage, what are the kinds of things we will need?

-- What are my out-of-pocket expenses and monthly premium costs? Does is

it make sense for me to pay a higher premium for lower out-of-pockets,

or vice versa?

-- Prescriptions are one of the most utilized benefits. What coverage is

provided by the plans I'm evaluating? Are my current prescriptions

covered and at what level?

-- How much will it cost me if an emergency situation occurs?

"Today's consumers are in a better position than ever before to make more informed choices about which health plan is best for them, based on their individual needs," said Nussbaum.

The WellPoint Institute of Health Care Knowledge is an innovative institute that applies evidence-based research to health care management. The institute serves as the central house for research endeavors undertaken by WellPoint Inc. and its subsidiaries. Research efforts center on topics such as health education, consumer behavior, health care disparities and the most effective use of clinical services. The Institute will also work closely with its health outcomes and clinical research subsidiary, HealthCore, to release clinical research that is of interest to consumers and others in health care.

For more information, please visit WellPoint Institute of Health Care Knowledge at .

About WellPoint, Inc.

WellPoint, Inc. is the largest health benefits company in terms of medical membership in the United States. WellPoint is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as Empire Blue Cross or Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the city of Fairfax, the town of Vienna and the area east of State Route 123.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about WellPoint is available at .

SOURCE WellPoint, Inc.
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