The earlier briefs in this series have laid out the important steps states must take to create a strong, stable exchange. But even if the state ensures that its exchange is fair and effective, if it is not easy to use and trusted by consumers, eligible enrollees won’t materialize. And if consumers lack the ability to understand their options and make informed decisions, the power of the exchange to drive competition and quality will be undermined.
The exchange is a store where consumers can buy health insurance products – and anyone who’s worked retail knows that the consumer experience is critical. For all the attention that must be paid to getting the behind-the-scenes aspects of the exchange to work, the front-end is just as important. When a consumer goes to the exchange to buy coverage, will it be a simple, easy process, or will they get frustrated by needless red tape? Will they be able to entrust their personal financial information to the exchange? Will the exchange help them pick coverage that’s right for their family? The answers to these questions cannot be taken for granted.