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Study: Most people who quit their insurance are planning to come back

Health insurance form with stethoscope concept for life planning

A new study published in JAMA explores churn in the health insurance coverage in a large private health insurer to gain a better understanding of how people change insurance plans.

In this study, Benjamin Ukert, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health, and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania and other organizations, examine enrollment data from the health insurance company Anthem between 2006 and 2018. Anthem offers individual and group commercial plans in 14 states and Medicare and Medicaid plans in some states.

The researchers took a random sample of 5 percent of the enrolled commercial plan members—slightly more than 3 million people—during the study period. They compared turnover in Anthem’s employer-provided group insurance plans and individual plans to see how long people stayed with a plan before leaving and to what extent people re-enrolled in one of the company’s plans (including Medicare Advantage and Medicaid Managed Care plans) at a later date.

Prior research has found that 15 to 20 percent of people using various health insurance plans change plans each year. This can include people switching to a Medicare Advantage plan, people losing access to Medicaid-associated plans due to income changes, customers buying different individual insurance plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace, employers changing group coverage options or people moving to different jobs.

Their analysis found that each member was enrolled in a plan for approximately 48 months during the study period. However, there was notable variation in enrollment time and around one-quarter of members remained with the insurer for five years before leaving. Over the same period, slightly more than one-third of the people in the study re-enrolled in some Anthem plan within five years of leaving.