Opinion

Home schooled

In school I learned some of the basics that have really helped me live my life. Geometry, of course. The periodic table. The anatomy of a frog (added bonus: I got to dissect it!). The history of the Spanish-American War. They’ve helped me in many facets of my life — or, at the very least, they’ve helped me win many rounds of bar trivia, so I guess it’s all been worth it.

Of course, I learned nothing about banking or credit, taxes, general health or insurance, to name a few, and I’m pretty sure no one else did, either.

A recent survey of 1,008 U.S. adults conducted for the American Institute of CPAs by Harris Interactive found that more than half (51 percent) could not accurately identify at least one of three common health insurance terms: premium, deductible and copay.

So it seems we desperately could have used some of that education in school.

It’s the latest concerning information about our health care (and insurance) system. Premiums and copays are words all of us use on a fairly regular basis. They are things we use our money to pay for. And we don’t know what they actually mean. That’s upsetting, to say the least.

This is no isolated survey, either. Results were more grim in another survey a month ago: A health care economist at Carnegie Mellon University rounded up 202 people who had employer-sponsored health insurance and found that just 14 percent could identify what each of those terms (and one more, co-insurance) meant. And keep in mind: Those are people who have health coverage right now and consider themselves a primary or secondary health care decision maker in their family.

The same confusion reigns when it comes to Obamacare: Though the switches flip for open enrollment in mere weeks, consumers are still largely in the dark. And who can blame them? We barely know enough about health insurance or health care to understand basic terms, let alone bureaucratic changes.

Failure of basic health insurance 101 — as researchers called it — is especially relevant (ie., concerning) as millions of Americans are about to begin purchasing health insurance coverage, many doing so for the first time. Even without the predicted glitches of the exchanges, we have to assume that many people don’t know what they’re buying.

And that’s leading to a more complicated system and higher costs for all of us.

(Brokers: Still think we don’t need you?)

What we need is more education on health care and health insurance. In addition to educating us now — which would be quite helpful — I think some basic knowledge should be taught to us at a young age. Health care is something we need to know about our entire life, and not just for bar trivia.

Personally, I’d be willing to give up intense sessions of learning the Pythagorean Theorem for some Health Insurance 101.

About the Author
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer is Managing Editor for Benefits Selling magazine. She can be reached at kmayer@sbmedia.com

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