This will come as a surprise to absolutely none of you, but, according to Forbes, “Healthcare Consumers Lack Knowledge Of Basic Health Insurance Terms.” Actually, that’s the name of a December 3 article that summarizes the findings of a recently released survey by Policygenius that shows, among other things, just “how challenging health insurance is for many American consumers to understand.”

The survey, with a sample size of 1,500 people, found that “many people avoid care due to uncertainty over their coverage,” with about half of respondents unable to correctly answer whether any of the essential benefits they were asked about are covered on their plan. The survey has been conducted for the past three years, and the “cumulative findings suggest that people are increasingly confused about the law and their coverage.”

Additionally, only 21% of respondents in 2018 and 11.9% of respondents in 2019 were able to correctly state the dates of the annual open enrollment period.

In short, consumers don’t know when to sign up for coverage, and even if they did, they wouldn’t know what they were buying. Christine Wilson, a spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, is quoted in the Policygenius article: "It's almost like speaking a foreign language.” Most agents would probably agree—we’re familiar with the deer-in-the-headlights look we often get from our clients.

The Forbes piece puts some of the blame on our education system:

Some of you may remember home economics classes, now called family and consumer sciences. Although nutrition, cooking, and healthy living featured prominently in these classes, one of the items taught was personal finance and budgeting. A dwindling number of middle and high schools offer family and consumer science courses.

Forbes points out some other key findings from the report:

  • More than half of respondents did not know what a copayment or deductible was.
  • More than a quarter of respondents avoided receiving health care services because they did not know what benefits were covered under their plan.
  • A whopping 13% of respondents “were unsure if they even had health insurance.”
  • While 87% of consumers who enroll in an ACA plan receive a premium tax credit, “only about 16% of people who lack health insurance are aware they can get government subsidies.”

As politicians and Presidential candidates continue to debate the intricate details of the various health care proposals that have been introduced, it’s worth remembering that the average voter doesn’t even understand the basics of health insurance; the discussions they’re having in the Presidential debates are likely way over most people’s heads.

And as agents continue to try to find the best plans for our clients and prospects, we need to remember that we know a lot more about health insurance than the average consumer does, so we need to be careful about how we explain the benefits. Otherwise, we risk selling something to our clients that they don’t understand and may have trouble using correctly.