Health plans confuse medical school students
Even doctors in training have trouble sifting through insurance options to pick the cheapest available plan, a study shows.
“I think it confirms some of the issues that folks may have with choosing complicated insurance plans,” said Jonathan Gruber.
An economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the Health Care Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Gruber was not involved in the report.
The study focused on Medicare Part D plans.
Starting in 2006, the plans gave prescription drug subsidies to people covered by Medicare, the government-run health insurance for the elderly and disabled. Enrollees must choose from 30 or more plans, depending on their home state.
According to a recent analysis, only 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries had picked the cheapest plan, the authors write.
“About 13 million older adults that have a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan and do not qualify for low-income subsidies are affected by this phenomenon,” said Andrew Barnes, who worked on the study at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.
The researchers asked 70 medical students and residents to pick the cheapest plan for a hypothetical patient, “Bill,” from a list of three or nine plans.
For each option, there was information about monthly drug premiums, the annual deductible, number of network pharmacies and estimated annual cost.
Just fewer than half of the participants correctly chose the plan with the lowest estimated annual cost, the authors write in PLoS One.
When there were three choices, two-thirds of the medical students and residents chose correctly. That dropped to one-third when there were nine plan choices.
“Our results reinforce the notion of ‘choice overload,' where the more options we have, the more difficulty we have processing and comparing the attributes of these options and making a decision,” Barnes said. “But even if the number of plans available were lower, many Medicare beneficiaries still do not understand the information that is provided.”
That is particularly a concern for older people who may have trouble with numbers, Barnes added.
On average, participants who chose a higher-cost plan would have Bill spending about $100 more than necessary each year, the researchers found.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Coal’s worst fears affirmed in analysis of Obama climate plan
- Police officials rethink approach to training
- Obama reaches out to Jewish community
- 28 evacuated as fire hits oil platform off Louisiana coast
- Couple pleads not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts
- As oil production soars, so do pipeline leaks
- Giant hole forms near golf course
- Security guard indicted in Ky. whiskey thefts
- D.C. mansion murder suspect had help, police say
- Cuban talks to continue
- Senate still works on NSA proposal as deadline nears