Raising Women’s Voices

Demanding transparency in the health insurance market

Posted in Insurance companies, Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on May 13, 2009

doctor with vulnerable patient picOn the heels of an earlier post about unexpected and hidden costs of child birth care, comes a discussion about transparency and standardization of coverage facts.  The Center for American Progress released a report detailing how little consumers understand about what their insurance will pay for and how difficult it is to take advantage of the much touted choice in plans when insurance companies play so many games to hide the large gaps in coverage that they build into policies.

In marketing their plans, insurance companies leave a lot of information undisclosed and the nature of the product — in part, a protection against unforseeable future events — makes it difficult for consumers to compare prices and quality as they would other products.  Consumers need to know that the insurance options are not always equal and greater transparency in coverage policies is essential if we are to believe that individual choice among plan options is beneficial to the American people.  The report suggests a new method for developing benchmarks to more clearly communicate types and cost of care in a variety of medical scenarios.

We recommend developing standardized health plan comparison tools—patterned on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nutrition label, but for health insurance—that could help consumers appreciate the kinds of medical events for which health insurance may be needed and relative levels of protection provided under different policies.

As Amy Allina of National Women’s Health Network said, “they focus particularly on how terribly expensive it can be if you become seriously sick — but it would be interesting to see a similar analysis of the degree to which prevention services are covered or not.”

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