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Americans Want More Help In Understanding, Using Healthcare Insurance

As millions of Americans resolve to be healthier in the new year, a new survey suggests consumers should add "understand my insurance" to the list of health-oriented goals for 2008.

According to a survey commissioned by eHealthInsurance, most consumers lack a basic understanding of even the most common health insurance terms as well as the particulars of their own health insurance coverage.

For example:

  •  Only half of respondents were certain how much they paid for their monthly health insurance premiums (50 percent) or annual deductibles (45 percent).
  • Less than a quarter of respondents (23 percent) reported that they were very sure of what the terminology used in their health insurance policy actually means.
  • Even basic terms proved difficult, with few respondents reporting an understanding of acronyms such as HMO (36 percent), PPO (20 percent) or HAS (11 percent).

"It's clear Americans lack a basic understanding of health insurance terms, which may prevent them from selecting the health plan best suited to their individual needs," said Sam Gibbs, senior vice president of eHealth, Inc.

"But as costs increase and responsibility for coverage shifts to the individual, these terms are becoming increasingly relevant to consumers' daily lives and their well-being."

The nationwide telephone survey of 1,010 U.S. adults asked respondents to rate their understanding of health insurance terms and their own policy.

Among the findings:

  • 71 percent know their plan's co-payment, and 60 percent know their deductible.
  • Even though PPOs are the most common type of health insurance offered by U.S. employers(1), only a fifth (20 percent) know what PPO stands for.
  • Women tend to be the healthcare decision makers for their families, but one in 10 women admitted to having "no idea" what the terminology in their policy means.
  • Most Americans would rather find something else to do -- such as hit the gym (52 percent) or prepare their taxes (30 percent) -- than read up on their policy.

Is There a Remedy? In addition to gauging awareness, the survey asked respondents to identify what would help increase their understanding of health insurance terms and their policy.

Among the most useful to consumers are: 

  • Side-by-side comparisons of policies (71 percent).
  • Live assistance with questions (65 percent)
  • A glossary of health insurance terms (57 percent)

The survey also indicated that Americans are comfortable seeking information about health coverage online, with more than a third (37 percent) saying they would use the Internet for information about health insurance if they weren't already assisted by an employer or government program.

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