Health: Providing consumer healthcare provider recommendations for the uninsured and other vulnerable communities

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides comprehensive and affordable health insurance for many uninsured individuals and families in the United States. To take advantage of the new law, individuals will need to investigate and select insurance plans and enroll into the online Federal Health Insurance Exchange. For many vulnerable populations, this will be challenging as they may have never had insurance before, and may lack expertise in selecting the appropriate insurance provider. In collaboration with my mentor, Paul Resnick, a professor in UMSI, I have created a team of UM alumni to understand the specific challenges that these populations may face when choosing the best quality and best priced plans. Our goal is to create a browser extension that will provide recommendations to those consumers enrolling into the exchange. These recommendations will come from ratings and reviews from other consumers regarding their decisions to select insurance providers and will consist of information such as “of people who looked at this plan, 12% ended up buying it; 44% purchased this other plan.” Challenges include incentivizing consumers to provide reviews and determining the best information to help new consumers select the best providers based on their health needs and monetary restrictions. Data collected would allow us to explore broader research questions such as: what are the critical factors for selecting health insurance providers online versus offline? What incentives result in people contributing the most feedback regarding their choices (e.g., money, promise of feedback in terms of the number of people that read a contributor’s review, simply asking for reviews, etc.)? When making healthcare-related decisions, do people view the ratings only, the reviews only, a mix of both, or neither?

Graduate Students: Sonali Mishra and Sandy Ng
Co-Advisor: Paul Resnick