By Tulay Turan, J.D.
Concerns about health care coverage can cause patients to avoid seeking necessary care.
Americans' lack of health care literacy may be leading them to avoid medical care. More than one in four people (27.2 percent) have avoided care or treatment because they were unsure of what their health insurance covered, according to a survey from Policygenius. Policygenius' research suggests people are increasingly confused about their coverage. For instance, this year's survey found more than 85 percent don't know the basic benefits that health insurance plans must cover under the Affordable Care Act, compared to 80 percent in 2018 and 78 percent in 2017.
"The survey data suggest the reason people avoid care is because they don't fully understand their insurance coverage and would rather avoid a surprise bill," Myles Ma, health care expert at Policygenius, said. Americans are also confused about basic health insurance facts. Only 29.3 percent of respondents were able to correctly define all three of the most common health care expenses — premiums, copays and deductibles. Even among people with health insurance, only 36.1 percent knew all three terms.
"It's important to read the details in your health insurance policy to get a better understanding of your coverage," Ma said. "You can also call your provider to ask any specific questions you have about your policy."
The third annual Policygenius Health Insurance Literacy Survey also found:
- Only 11.9 percent of people knew the correct dates for 2019 federal open enrollment.
- Only one in five (21.9 percent) knew you could get aid to purchase an Obamacare plan — and awareness was even lower (15.6 percent) among people lacking coverage.
- About 80 percent of people erroneously believed there is still a tax penalty for foregoing health insurance.
- The number of people who were unsure if they had health insurance was 13.2 percent.
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