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Why It’s So Hard for Insurers to Compete Over Technology

We are awash in choices about health insurance. Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces offer about 40 plans, on average. Medicare beneficiaries can choose from among about 2 dozen to 3 dozen Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, respectively. At least half of all US workers are offered multiple coverage options by their employers. And many Medicaid enrollees can choose among managed care plans.

What’s the point of all these choices? In theory, customers will be drawn to those plans that offer good value for the money. That’s why plans offer different levels of cost sharing, for example, and differ in which and how many doctors and hospitals are included in their networks. Apart from requirements mandated by the federal government or the states, they also vary in the classes of care they cover. Some may offer more coverage for optical or dental care, for example. Customers can then shop for the plans they prefer most at a cost they can afford.

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