An Objective Guide to Help You Choose Insurance Under the New Health Care Law

This week’s post in our series to help consumers understand the Affordable Care Act for health insurance (ACA, or “Obamacare”) that takes effect in January concerns how to choose a health plan.

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon, according to NPR, showed that Americans’ knowledge of insurance fundamentals is … lacking. Only 14 in 100 people understood basics of their policies, such as deductibles and copays, which make a huge difference in how much you pay out of pocket pay, for example, for emergency treatment.

With the advent of the ACA, things are more complicated. So NPR interviewed an expert in interpreting medical jargon who helped devise a guide to getting and using health insurance in 2014.

Dr. Ruth Parker, an internist and pediatrician who specializes in health literacy research at Emory University, told NPR, “Even a lot of health providers don’t know this stuff, and we need to.”

She, some colleagues at the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, and Emory staff and students created a user-friendly guide to answer four basic questions:

  • What are my choices for health insurance?
  • How do I get it?
  • How do I use it?
  • What will it cost me?

The guide, “The New Health Care Law and You,” is available on the IOM website.

Because every state’s interpretation of the law is slightly different, consumers and doctors will need a bit more information to tailor the information to their situation. The guide provides website links for additional resources and information; some state agencies and nonprofits have incorporated the guide into their own materials.

The people who contributed to the guide were all volunteers who purposefully avoided political pressure or discussion, and anything that could be perceived as favoring one kind of insurance over another. “Nobody’s trying to sell you anything here,” Parker told NPR. “We very intentionally tried to be fact-based, and break this complicated process into pieces – baby steps – so that people would realize they can do this, they have options.”

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