Switching health insurance (or not)
Study on effective interventions to promote deliberate decision-making

Each year, consumers have the option to switch to another health insurance company. However, many consumers remain inert: they do not consider any alternatives but just stick to their service provider. Why do they do so? And what can be done about it? To answer these questions, CentERdata conducted two studies on behalf of the Dutch ministry of Health, Welfare & Sports, in collaboration with Marcel Zeelenburg (Tilburg University), Anna van der Schors (NIBUD) and Marijke van Putten (University of Leiden).

Study methodology

The first study was a survey research in the LISS panel to gain insight into the drivers and barriers to the conscious consideration of switching.

  • The ‘inert’ (who did not consider switching) seems to believe that switching is difficult, doesn’t really see the added value, and doesn’t think that the benefits outweigh the costs. In addition, the inert perceives switching to be a hassle.

  • For consumers who made a deliberate decision to stay with their current health insurer, satisfaction plays an important role. This ‘deliberate loyal” has more contact with his current insurer and is also more loyal. The deliberate loyal is also afraid to feel regret after switching to another insurer.

  • The ‘switcher’ expects to be better off by carefully evaluating health insurance alternatives and thus thinks it is worth the effort. The switcher also has people around him that switch and thus seems to have examples. 

Based on the barriers identified in the first study, two interventions to encourage more deliberate decision-making were tested in a field experiment, namely:

  1. explaining how easy it is to switch (in a short video);

  2. providing a reminder of the deadline for switching (31 December).

The interventions were implemented in the months before the deadline. Subsequently, the behaviour (e.g. did the person consider switching? Did the person actually switch?) of the intervention groups was compared to a control group.

The results show positive effects of the intervention which explained how easy it is to switch: consumers who received this intervention were more likely to actually switch or to deliberately stay with their current health insurer compared to consumers who did not receive the intervention. They were also more likely to consciously consider their options. This could be due to a change in their perceptions: they saw it less as a hassle to switch and were more aware of the deadline compared to consumers who did not receive the intervention. It is therefore recommended to explain in a campaign how easy switching actually is.

The report (in Dutch) of the research on barriers and drivers can be found here.

The report (in Dutch) of the intervention study can be found here.


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