Have you seen the TV ads from Allstate? You know, the ones where the guy “is” mayhem – in the form of the teenage girl texting her friends while driving through a crowded parking lot, or the wealthy executive who just found out the market dropped “a million points” and spills his coffee in his lap, stopping his car in the middle of a busy intersection. Allstate has done something very clever – they have created a series of vivid – and comically engaging – pictures of a simple yet impactful four-letter word: risk. And their message is clear: While we might think WE are in control and don’t need protection, we still need protection against “the other guy.”
When it comes to risk, we have a tendency toward optimism and overconfidence. For example, most of us believe that we are good drivers and control our circumstances, so accidents are unlikely to happen to us. (How many times have you checked messages or texted someone while driving, because you felt totally in control, and those laws against it are designed for other people who can’t multi-task the way you can?!) What the Allstate ads demonstrate is that even if we are good drivers, we can’t control the other drivers on the road. Their actions present a risk to us – one that Allstate hopes we will want to insure against.
How do the Allstate “mayhem” commercials apply to health insurance? We tend not to understand the real risks or probabilities that we will encounter certain health situations and need services. Even if the data do exist, we often don’t know how to interpret it correctly. And, many of us have an overconfidence bias. For example, in some user testing we conducted, many of the participants casually mentioned that they didn’t typically use a lot of healthcare, didn’t go to the doctor regularly, etc., because they were very healthy. Seems reasonable, right? Except that many of those same people were in their 40s and 50s…the age at which health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease become more likely and people typically start consuming more healthcare. And accidents can happen even to healthy people.
As we approach the end of open enrollment and think of ways to convince the “young invincibles” to sign up for health insurance, maybe a few mayhem-type visualizations would help. Or at least convince them to sign up for catastrophic coverage.