Feeling Sure about Your Health Insurance?

By: Anne Elmlinger

The sure part of health insurance suggests that you should feel safe and confident because of your health plan coverage.  It should remove your fear that a serious illness would cause you major financial hardship or that you would not be able to get the best possible care. 

Greenwald & Associates’ recent research provides some mixed results on this topic.  One online study of privately insured Americans suggests that many do feel that sense of security (43% say health plan makes them feel “safe”).  However, one in four feels only slightly safe or not safe at all.  Feeling unsafe is more likely among consumers who have no choice of plans, who have had their plans for less than one year, or who are in fair or poor health.

My health plan makes me feel “safe”


Very strongly or
Strongly felt


Only slightly felt or
Not felt at all

* Percent “Moderately felt” not shown.


Another study, the EBRI/Greenwald & Associates 2016 Health and Workplace Benefits Survey, finds that only one in three American workers has a high level of confidence that they can afford health care without financial hardship today.  Looking ahead ten years, even fewer believe they can manage health care costs without financial hardship.

Able to afford health care without financial hardship


In next 10 years


Extremely or
Very confident


Extremely or
Very confident


Not too or
Not at all confident


Not too or
Not at all confident


Certainly the fast rising costs of health care, especially prescription drugs, as well as the growing number of high deductible plans help to feed that lack of confidence.  Lowering the cost of both health care and health insurance is a major challenge that has no easy answers.

But are consumers right to have such concerns about financial hardship?  Do they even understand what their financial risk is under their health insurance policy?  A 2013 paper, Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance in the Journal of Health Economics, reports that although 93% of consumers think they understand the Maximum Out-of-Pocket concept, only 59% of them correctly identify its meaning.  Even if they know what the term means, in our experience, it is unlikely that most know what their own plan’s Maximum Out-of-Pocket is.

Of course, there are many terms in health insurance that consumers struggle to comprehend –  deductibles, copays, and especially coinsurance.  But I would argue that the most critical thing for everyone to understand and to know about their health plan is their Out-of-Pocket Maximum benefit level. 

In a time when policy makers are considering changes to health care reform legislation, it would be useful for consumers to weigh in on what they want to see changed.  Their ability to advocate for something that is truly in their own best interests would be greatly improved if they understood what they have now.

It is also a good time for health plans to take a fresh look at how best to communicate to consumers about how their plans work, what is covered and what is not, and how you as their health insurer can make them feel confident in their coverage. 

  • When was the last time you asked your customers how they feel about your company?
  • Are they feeling safe, eager to learn more and valued?
  • Are you making them feel frustrated, neglected or worried?
  • Do they understand the protections they have in your plan?

We at Greenwald & Associates would love to talk with you about these issues and see if there is a way that we can help.

Careers Greenwald & Associates