Consumers struggle with confusing health plan names

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Many consumers and consumer advocates say the names of insurance plans are unhelpful, and at times confusing and misleading, reports the New York Times.

A number of insurers sell plans under names like Select, Exclusive, Essential and Essential Plus. Insurers offer a number of options, all with very similar names, causing confusion for those choosing a plan, according to the article.

"[A] lot of product names are confusing and hard to navigate," Jon R. Urbanek, a senior vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, told the Times. In many cases, he said, "they mean more internally to a company than they do to a customer."

For instance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina offers Blue Advantage Silver 3000 and Blue Select Silver 3500 plans, with the numbers referring to the deductible amount. Humana offers a Gold 2500/3500 plan, which has a $2,500 deductible and a $3,500 out-of-pocket limit.

Yet more than 60 percent of the target population for health insurance exchanges do not understand fundamental health insurance concepts--including premiums, deductibles, copayments and maximum annual out-of-pocket spending limits--according to a Health Affairs study published in December 2013. "Confusion around these concepts would make it difficult for consumers to understand trade-offs between different health insurance plans and to choose the insurance plan that best meets their needs," the study states, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

In addition to confusing consumers, some health plan names are deceptive. "Calling a plan 'exclusive' makes it sound super-duper, but it may mean that you have a very limited choice of doctors or hospitals," Betsy M. Imholz, a lawyer at Consumers Union, told the Times.

To learn more:
- here's the New York Times article

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