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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: March 10, 2009
Survey Shows Steep Consumer Health Plan Learning Curve

Consumers face a steep learning curve to understand common concepts that describe their health insurance coverage, according to a survey by Regence, a major health insurer in the Northwest and Intermountain region.

"Almost nine out of ten people in this country have some kind of health insurance coverage. But our focus groups show they don’t understand the language and that makes them afraid to use it," said Robert Harris, who oversees Regence’s market research. "It will be difficult for many health system reform ideas to get traction when people literally don’t know what we are talking about."

Regence research measures true levels of consumer understanding of health insurance concepts, the company said.

Previous surveys gauged self-reported understanding, but Regence asked 961 people with insurance to define terms and calculate their bill.

Sixty percent answered correctly just half the time. Four in 100 achieved an 80 percent score. Fear and embarrassment keep people from asking what words mean, according to research following the survey.

"One thing we learned is that glossaries don’t cut it," said Harris. "Our industry must simplify our language to help people get full value from their health plan."

Regence said it offers member education and assistance features such as:

  • mouse-over industry-specific terms to get instant definitions.
  • myRegence: Live help instant chat to advise and navigate; e-mail questions.
  • Customer Service Training: Emphasizes advocacy and problem-solving.
  • Case Management Nurses: Help people understand their coverage.

Other findings:

  • People rate their health plan as the most trustworthy source of information on their insurance coverage.
  • 9 in 10 insured people feel adequately protected by their health plan.

Address: Regence, P.O. Box 1071, Portland, OR 97207; (800) 452-7278,

  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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