'Obamacare' Decision Leaves Questions About Health Insurance Exchanges

Tech companies are developing the infrastructure for Web-based health insurance exchanges, but 46 percent of people are unsure if they would use them, according to a new study.

While technology companies are renewing their efforts to develop the infrastructure to create health insurance exchanges following the Supreme Court's decision upholding "Obamacare," the public is split on whether they would use HIXes, according to a study by Harris Interactive.

Only 29 percent of the public would consider using the exchanges, according to the Harris survey, which was commissioned by Xerox.

Of the respondents, 46 percent were unsure if they would use health insurance exchanges if required to purchase health insurance, according to the study. Meanwhile, 25 percent said they would avoid using an exchange and 29 percent said they were interested in using them.

Even as members of Congress try to repeal the law, health care IT experts expect IT vendors to accelerate HIX development following the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) on June 28.

ACA requires states to implement an HIX in time for open enrollment in October 2013 and effective coverage in January 2014.

Harris Interactive conducted the survey from June 29 to July 3 and interviewed 2,088 adults, ages 18 and older, on their views on the ACA and insurance exchanges. Xerox released the results on July 11.

Xerox remains committed to developing a software as a service (SaaS) cloud platform, according to Mary Scanlon, senior vice president for government health care solutions.

"Consumers are split when asked if they would take advantage of an exchange, so there is opportunity to educate consumers and to work with the states on programs to introduce the exchange and the benefits of the technology," Scanlon told eWEEK in an email.

The Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate requiring citizens to purchase health insurance was constitutional because it acts as a tax. Of respondents interviewed, 35 percent believed this mandate infringed on their rights and 32 percent believed the requirement would lower health care costs for citizens and the government.

To get consumers to select, enroll and purchase health insurance through an exchange, the Web services will have to be easy to use like Travelocity and Expedia are used to compare prices for airlines and hotels, Scanlon suggested.

"An exchange will create an 'Expedia-like' experience for individuals and small businesses with a state-sponsored Web portal to compare and shop for health plans," Will Saunders, Xerox's group president for government health care solutions, wrote in a blog post.

"And Web usability, the expertise to ensure each visitor to the exchange has a good experience, will become an important competency and success factor," said Scanlon.

Investment in personalization tools as well as outreach to consumers will be key, according to Scanlon. "It will be important to keep consumers engaged and connected to the exchange and to continue to drive adoption to the exchange and its services," said Scanlon. "Outreach programs and the technology to support these programs connect the technology to the consumer experience."

Xerox announced an initiative in Florida on June 26 in which it would offer its cloud-based Web portal to Florida Health Choices, an organization working to improve access to health care in the state.

Up to 33 million more Americans will purchase health insurance by 2021, according to consulting firm PwC.

"Despite the political uncertainty, private-sector initiatives, accentuated and accelerated by the health reform law, are moving forward," Kelly Barnes, leader of PwC's U.S. health industries practice, said in a statement. "The pressure for innovative ways to provide higher quality, more affordable health care continues."