Why is picking a health insurance plan so hard to do? Because it is scary, and the cost of making a bad decision can be steep.
Buying a TV also involves some hard decisions — there are lots of choices, just as there are with health insurance.
Comparisons of health insurance can be put in the same format. We can line up options and compare co-pays and deductibles, co-insurances and out-of-pocket maximums.
But it’s not as simple as that. Make a bad decision about a TV and the worst that happens is you’re out whatever you’ve spent on the TV. You don’t lose any more than you’ve already spent.
Health insurance is different. Make a bad decision about a health plan and you might end up on the hook for thousands of dollars you aren’t able to pay.
The difficulty of choosing insurance is not lost on most consumers. One participant in a recent Consumers Union focus group on health insurance-related material “became so anxious that he almost left upon learning that the focus group session related to health insurance.” Another participant said, “I think medical insurance is probably one of the hardest things for me that I shop for. And I think it’s one of the hardest things to figure out what’s covered.”
But selecting the right insurance for you and your family doesn’t have to be scary. Plan to spend some time making real comparisons of your options. Key items you want to understand:
- How much you are likely to pay under each plan you’re considering. Don’t just look at the premium — add in the copays, coinsurance and other out of pocket costs for the services you think you’ll be getting.
- Your total financial risk with each of your plan options – your total out of pocket maximum (the most you’d have to pay under each play). This is hard to calculate, and it’s an area we’ve focused on making easier.
- What benefits each plan covers, and make sure that the plan covers the benefits you expect you’ll need. Choose a site that uses plain English so you’ll quickly be able to decide which are most important to you.
Choosing benefits isn’t as exciting as getting a new TV, but it also doesn’t have to be scary. Consumers who take the time to understand their options and financial risk can know they made a well-informed, well-thought out decision. And breathe a sigh of relief at how easy it is the next time you buy a TV.