UCONN’s Health Disparities Institute’s Seminar Series on Insurance Simplification
University of Connecticut’s Health Disparities Institute has recently started a “Making Health Insurance Simpler” seminar series to bring more focus to the role that health insurance literacy and simplification to can play in reducing health disparities.
There’s significant evidence documenting consumers’ confusion about health insurance — what they are actually purchasing, what their selected plans will cost them, and how to get the greatest value from them. This confusion is evident among those with years of experience purchasing and using health insurance, and it is even a greater problem for the newly insured. Complexity is an especially onerous barrier to efficient and effective use of health insurance for younger people and individuals with limited English language proficiency, lower income levels or racial and ethnic minorities. Although increasing health insurance literacy and simplification will benefit all consumers, groups who suffer from health disparities are likely to gain an even greater benefit from these goals.
The first seminar in the series was on May 30 and featured Lynn Quincy, Director of the Health Care Value Hub at Consumers Union (The Health Care Value Hub is now part of Altarum Institute and can be found at healthcarevaluehub.org). With their mission of providing information on practices and policies that address healthcare cost, quality, and greater value for consumers, health insurance literacy and simplify are an important focus for the Healthcare Value Hub.
Quincy noted that health insurance has improved through the Affordable Insurance Act. For example, there are now no pre-existing conditions exclusions, no exceptions to out-of-pocket maximums, and a standard set of preventive services provided without cost to patients. However, the complexity of how plans are paid for, overly large number of plans to choose from, and American’s poor arithmetic skills leave consumers still struggling to evaluate what is the best plan for them. In addition, many directories of providers that an insurance company considers in-network are often inaccurate, and drug formularies may change during the plan year.
After her presentation, Quincy joined Ted Doolittle, the Healthcare Advocate for the State of Connecticut, and Victor Villagra, MD, Associate Director of the Health Disparities Institute, to discuss questions posed by the audience. Discussion topics included confusion arising from poor understanding of cost-sharing rules and exceptions, benefit exclusions, lack of awareness of state resources to appeal denials, and the growing burden of medical debt and limited legal assistance for low-income patients.
Future seminar series are being planned for the fall.
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