Posted by: LakeIris | September 22, 2010

My Evening with Market Research

I had a surprising and interesting evening. Yesterday I was asked if I would be willing to participate in a group discussion for market research related to private health insurance. Since tonight was one of my few free nights these holidays and since I’d get paid for participating, I agreed.

My first impression was that getting paid $90 to sit in a room and talk about my opinions is perhaps one of the best jobs for me ever. At the end of our two hours together…I still do. If anyone knows how I can make this into a little side career, please let me know.
Let me start by describing the people that made up our little community for the evening: myself, a middle-aged gentleman from South Africa, a lawyer from London (sounded remarkably like Jude Law), a lovely young woman from India, a Welsh woman who had just moved to Australia from NZ two months ago, a friendly guy from Italy and an adventure-seeking German (who has had five biking accidents in as many years!)
In some ways, such incredibly different backgrounds (e.g. my experience with private health insurance in America makes me think that the system here is more efficient and the insurance more affordable. Most of the others felt quite differently.)
In other ways, we had much in common. We are all in Australia on a temporary business visa (subclass 457) which means we are all highly skilled and/or working in a field for which there is a shortage of workers in Australia.
The conversation was enlightening. Some common themes came up over and over again – the uncertainty and anxiety related to the visa application process. The confusion over moving to a new country with a foreign health care system. Feeling we’d been steamrolled into joining the biggest insurance company because for all we could tell, it was the only option.
Yet interestingly enough…it’s not. There are at least four or five other companies that offer comparable products, geared toward ‘overseas visitors.’ And the company with which we all have health insurance has four levels of coverage from which to choose. We spent most of the two hours complaining about our lack of choice – for what company we can buy from and what levels of coverage there are available. But the choices are there. And I’m starting to wonder…have they been there all along?
So now I’m thinking back to when I first moved here and applied for health insurance. Perhaps the options really weren’t available back then. Or perhaps I’m reinventing history and I only think that I tried to shop around and couldn’t find any other companies that offered a similar product. Maybe I was so distracted by everything else going on in those few months (boxes arriving in a cargo crate, interviewing for teaching jobs, applying for my visa, looking for a house, etc.) that I just went with the easiest option.
Regardless, there are now lots of options (whether there were before or not) and I’m aware of them. And already I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to compare them all. I’m reminded of a magazine article I read a few years ago that looked into the phenomenon of choice. It can be very stressful for a person to have no options. But it can also be incredibly stressful to have a great many options and have to choose among them.
I suppose I’ve just transitioned from one extreme to the other.
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