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'Dismal' Understanding of Health Plans Among Consumers

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, August 21, 2013

Only 14% of consumers surveyed understand basic insurance terms such as "copayments," and "deductibles." They will make "disastrous decisions," when health insurance exchanges come online in a few weeks, says an economist and researcher.

With health insurance exchanges expected to launch on Oct. 1, health insurers have been busy creating websites and other materials to help guide their potential customers through the new online marketplace.

Typically the insurers use an interactive resource that walks consumers through the HIX process, provides information about available tax credits, and produces a customized summary of options. By all reports these websites are well received.

A study from Carnegie Mellon University suggests, however, that despite these efforts, the root problem for consumers is that health insurance has become so complex that consumers just don't understand it. The study casts doubt on whether consumers can even make informed healthcare purchasing decisions.

The study, published in the Journal of Health Economics, looks at two surveys—one covering insurance basics and a second asking respondents to figure out their share of a hospital bill.

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1 comments on "'Dismal' Understanding of Health Plans Among Consumers"


Harvey (8/22/2013 at 8:04 AM)
Co-payments is not a complex term. The industry claims it is so confusing due to "incentives". I don't believe that ten years ago there was any more consumer knowledge about health insurance terminology. Carriers always made their offering plans confusing. It is much easier to deny services if you cannot understand what your buying