What You Don't Know About Health Insurance May Cost YouWhen it comes to health care, it sometimes feels like nothing is simple. And that can be a real problem: According to a recent survey, some health care basics are going right over the heads of many Americans.

For example, only 55% of those surveyed felt sure that they knew what a deductible is. Fewer still said they could define or explain terms like premium (41%) or coinsurance (25%).

"This is significant because these terms describe money coming out of consumer's pockets toward their own health insurance coverage and medical care," says Brian Mast, vice president of communications at eHealthInsurance, which sponsored the Kelton Research survey.

And when it comes to the Democrats' health care reform plan, all the media coverage about it may not be getting through to people. Only 45% of those surveyed realized that adult children are already able to stay on their parents' health insurance plan until they're 26. By contrast, 42% believe that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be declined coverage by insurers, but that aspect of the legislation won't go into effect in 2014. Further, nearly 30% believe that people without employer-provided health insurance are required to purchase coverage now -- that won't be the case until 2014 either.

"It is a scary thought that many Americans continue to not know what's available to them as a result of the Affordable Care Act," says Ankeny Minoux, president of the nonprofit Foundation for Health Coverage Education. Their health insurance status is at stake. Without proper protection, many people suffer severe financial hardships from unforeseen medical expenses.

Devil of a Time with the Details

Beyond the big-picture misunderstandings, astonishing numbers of people are at a loss for the details of what they personally spend their health care dollars on. Fully 83% of those surveyed were unable to say for sure if their plans covered doctor's office visits, and 80% weren't sure about prescription drugs. There was confusion too, about whether their plans covered diagnostic services like sonograms, MRIs, X-rays, overnight hospital stays or immunizations.

Much as people like to groan about the high cost of health insurance, only 47% of those surveyed even knew how much they contributed from their salary toward their premiums, and about a third could say how much they paid toward the monthly premiums of their spouses and children. And as for how much their employers chipped in, only 18% knew.

Distressingly few people review their health insurance on an annual basis -- only 36%. "They were more likely to make an annual review of their cell phone (40%), and Internet (39%) costs than their health insurance," says Mast. "For most of us, annual health insurance and medical expenses are a lot greater than our phone and Web access expenses."

How can you know if you're getting the most out of your health insurance dollars if you don't know what you're paying? Can you find more affordable coverage options for healthy dependents? Are health insurance costs equitably split between you and your company? If you don't know the answers to those questions, you're doing your wallet no favors.

If you don't know what you don't know, study up. Start by getting more informed about healthcare reform, and tapping resources like the Foundation for Health Coverage Education, the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration, or www.ehealthinsurance.com and their free book, Individual Health Insurance for Dummies.

Before signing up for coverage, consult a health specialist to make sure you are making the right decisions. The U.S. Uninsured Help Line can answer general questions about programs, eligibility requirements, benefits, costs, and you can get a referral to a health insurance broker in your area who has signed on with the nonprofit's volunteer network to help you work through the health care maze.

Being confused by health care can be costly -- so get the facts.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

Intro to Retirement

Get started early planning for your long term future.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Finding for the best health care insurance is really not an easy part. We should do comparison shopping before getting one and make necessary things such as knowing the backgrounds of one company, its rating, etc. And most importantly, it covers and suits our needs and budget.

December 13 2012 at 4:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I was looking for a cheap health insurance my friend told me that there are sites, where people can compare prices from many providers.These sites are the only one way to save money on your insurance, because once you register many companies will make you different offers.The site he suggested me was:


I tried them and I saved more than 30%.Try it.Just register and get free quotes!

January 12 2012 at 3:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dr. Frank Care

Ask your self how much time you are spending on research for your new car / computer / other gadget and how much time your spending on research before a medical procedure! It's easier than ever to find the answer to any question online (http://www.google.com / http://www.FlyClinic.NET). Comparison sites are showing up and one can even search for and compare doctors, clinics and their performance (http://www.FlyClinic.COM). There are few excuses left ...

Dr. Frank Care

December 18 2011 at 9:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Every person is entitled to get a certificate of coverage and a list of what their benefits are. The insurance companies are not hiding anything, people are just ignorant of their coverage because they CHOOSE to be. They get their insurance books and they toss them in a pile or the trash. That is their own fault. Also, these insurance companies have customer service reps who sit on the phones all day and explain this stuff. It's not a secret, it's just plain ignorance and whining.

December 15 2011 at 1:58 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

My wife and I have nothing to review. We are covered (and have been for over 5 years), by Medicare and (I believe) the best AARP plan available. We are completely satisfied and have no complaints. Yes, the AARP plan is expensive but we can go to any Dr., specialist, hospital or lab for blood work, x-rays, bone scan, PET, Cat or MRI and we have no co pays; if it is covered by medicare the co pay is covered by AARP; also, our medicine for mail-in pharmacy is great; some of the meds just have a $2.00 co-pay for a 90 day supply. Like I said, it is expensive; but several of our friends are always complaining about being turned down for something. I know this sounds like a commercial for AARP but it isn't.

December 15 2011 at 12:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

blame the congress/senate tards that passed some piece of crap legislation without reading it,,,,

December 14 2011 at 11:55 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Don't worry! ObamaCare will be much worse, cost more, and "Kill Seniors."

December 14 2011 at 8:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

In my case, the employer did not even realize what a shitty health coverage plan he had obtained for his company. Our health plan has co pays, high deductibles and co insurance. So basically we pay for a health plan that pays little to nothing out. The employer pays $1000 a month, and the other $500 id deducted from the paycheck. So $1500 basically gives catastrophic coverage. Only after a $3000 deductible per person is paid (not counting co-pays), will the insurance company "consider" paying any claims. At that point you have to continue to pay co-pays and a 20% co insurance rate.

Plus, the insurance company routinely denies coverage for the items it should pay for. For example, our state law requires an insurcance company to pay for a child's hearing aids once every 3 years, up to $1000 a year. The insurance company can refuse to do so, and the insurance commissioner refuses to enforce the law. You have to threaten to go to the media before the insurance commissioner will offer any assistance.

Nice profitable racket the insurance companies got going. We should treat them like the criminals they are.

December 14 2011 at 8:37 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jlw100000's comment

Our employer kept telling us to stop whining about the crappy insurance until his own family had to use it. We were limited to one emergency room, where, unless you were uncontrollably spurting blood, the wait to be seen was never less than 12 hours, and sometimes more than 24 hours. Then he had to fight to get anything paid for, and found out we were not exaggerating our complaints. A few months later, he switched us to a better company.

December 14 2011 at 10:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The Affordable Health Care Act is the wrong path- but at least it started the conversation on HOW to fix. Book called FixTheNation.com via Amazon has an interesting take about it. Basically, the math doesn't work so NOW what? And what do you think the Supreme Court will decide about it?? IF not legal, is that a GOOD thing or will markets/business react poorly?

December 14 2011 at 8:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

and where's the f-n article?
Guess it'll cost me as I don't see any article on this page.

December 14 2011 at 8:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply