Yesterday we got an email from a health writer & editor at Consumer Reports magazine who’s in the middle of researching an article about individual health insurance. She’s been reading our blog and wanted to interview us for her article. We talked on the phone at length about the individual health insurance market (she’s in NY, where health insurance works quite a bit different than here in Colorado and most of the rest of the US).
She mentioned that the Consumer Reports cars issue is by far the most popular issue each year. People can’t wait to get their hands on it, and recommendations from CR carry huge weight when people head to dealerships for test drives. The health insurance and health care issue gets far less attention. And yet health insurance is a far more important purchase than a car. Once you get past the basic safety features, the rest is all gravy when it comes to cars. Sure, you might be able to find a more comfortable seat or better leg room if you shop around a bit more, but in the end of the day, a car is a car. They will pretty much all get you where you’re going, some just a bit more stylishly than others.
The same cannot be said for all health insurance policies, especially if you take into account all the discount health plans that masquerade as health insurance for the uninformed. There are plenty of people who have bought bad policies and been burned by their health insurance. And yet I imagine that the average consumer knows more about cars than about health insurance. If your car gives out, your worst case scenario is buying a new car. If your health insurance fails you, your worse case scenario is financial ruin on the heels of a six figure medical claim.
So why are people not scrambling for the health insurance issue of Consumer Reports the way they do for the automobile issue? Health insurance isn’t sexy. It isn’t fun, and it doesn’t come with heated seats and a sun roof. You can’t show it off to your friends, and in the event that you have to use it, you’re obviously not having the best day. But while a comparison of HSAs versus HMOs might not be as exciting as SUVs versus crossovers, it will probably be more helpful in the long run. The majority of Americans favor changes to the current health care system, so maybe the time is right for people to be receptive to increased consumer education on health insurance.