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Are You Prepared to Select a Health Plan During Open Enrollment?

Most Americans consider themselves prepared to select a health plan during this year’s open enrollment season
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Most Americans consider themselves 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.

Whether people in Colorado are enrolling in a health plan offered through an employer, state-based exchange or government-sponsored program such as Medicare or Medicaid, this fall’s open-enrollment season for health benefits will likely be different than in the past. In fact, the UnitedHealthcare survey found that 44% of respondents expect COVID-19 to influence the health plan they intend to select, including 16% looking for an option with lower out-of-pocket costs and 13% seeking more well-being programs.  

With that in mind, here are three key health care trends to be aware of during open enrollment, plus tips to help people more effectively navigate the health care system, improve well-being and potentially save money.

Majority of Americans surveyed said they are prepared to select a health plan during open enrollment. 

A survey-record 82% of insured Americans said they are prepared to select a health plan this year, with baby boomers (86%) and Gen Xers (85%) the most confident; compared to millennials (79%) and Gen Z (71%). When it comes to time spent researching health benefits by people with health insurance, 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. To help better understand your health plan options and improve your “health literacy,” consider accessing public resources such as, which provides definitions for thousands of common health care terms in English and Spanish.

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%) of Americans said they are interested in using digital devices, such as smartphones or laptops, to access care, reflecting the surging interest in telehealth due to the persistent spread of COVID-19. Given that, a growing number of physicians are now offering care virtually, while some health plans are rolling out virtual primary care services or offering access to 24/7 urgent care. When it comes to comparison shopping, the survey found 50% of respondents said they had used the internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for health care during the past year. With recent federal regulations spurring greater price transparency for medical services, people can ask their health care providers or facilities for price information. Importantly, some health plans also provide quality ratings and customized cost estimates based on an individual’s own plan.    

Many people say wellness programs have improved their health, while digital fitness apps gain popularity. 

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. Among those people, 35% said the initiative helped them improve their nutrition; 34% said it helped improve their mental health; and 33% reported improved sleep. As for digital fitness apps, 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. To access these types of resources, many employers and health plans offer well-being programs, including ones that enable people to earn financial incentives for meeting daily activity goals or obtain subscriptions to digital fitness apps at no additional cost.

By considering these health care trends and tips, people can make more informed decisions related to health care coverage and access, while promoting well-being and helping prevent disease before it starts.