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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: ACA Enrollees Need Help to Find the Best Insurance Plan

Consumers who used a decision aid to select health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act were more likely to choose plans that were better-suited to their health needs, according to new research from the School of Medicine and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

More than 12 million Americans have enrolled in plans through the ACA’s health insurance marketplace, but many struggle to make an informed choice. The authors developed Show Me My Health Plans, (, a free, web-based decision aid for Missouri residents that simplified information, assessed user knowledge, and provided a personalized cost calculator to estimate how much users might spend on health insurance and health care annually.

To evaluate the tool, the authors looked at the quality of decision-making by 328 enrollees. They found that those who used the tool were more knowledgeable about health insurance and 10 times more likely to choose higher-cost “silver” or “gold” plans that were a better value for those with high health needs.

“Although the ACA took an important step by improving access to quality health insurance, that access needs to be supplemented by education to support individuals in choosing a plan that meets their needs and preferences,” wrote lead author Dr. Mary C. Politi, associate professor at the School of Medicine. Co-authors included the Brown School’s Dr. Timothy McBride, professor, and Dr. Abigail Barker, research analyst.

The paper was published in the July-December issue of MDM Policy & Practice.