NEW YORK — Despite being confident in their own abilities, over half of Americans are hopelessly confused by health insurance — so much so that the average American earns a D-grade for their knowledge of the topic.
A OnePoll survey asked 2,000 respondents to describe their understanding of the U.S. health care system, using questions about their experiences and current base of knowledge. An overwhelming 90 percent said they were “somewhat” to “completely” confident in their own ability to navigate the medical system. Three in 10 declared they were “completely” confident in their abilities. In contrast, only three percent said they were “not at all” confident about discussing health care.
Despite that, a majority of Americans admitted to feeling “completely lost when it comes to understanding health insurance” — 56 percent compared to just 15 percent who disagreed.
Commissioned by Bend Financial, the survey also included a series of true-or-false and multiple-choice questions to test respondents with health care coverage on their knowledge.
Is American healthcare too complicated?
Collectively, the panel of respondents could only answer 10 of the 15 questions correctly. That’s a D-grade on a standard academic quiz. Only 20 percent could identify all the correct qualified life events, meaning the special circumstances that would allow someone to enroll in a new health care plan outside of the open enrollment period.
Six in 10 people (59%) mistakenly think that it is not possible to have more than one health insurance plan. Another 65 percent marked that a health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) are the same thing.
According to Bend Financial Co-founder and CEO Tom Torre, this latter point is a common misconception among consumers.
“At first glance, HSAs and FSAs can appear to be very similar,” he said. “But bottom line, there are many critical differences that separate the two. An HSA is a savings account, while an FSA is a spending account, and when compared side by side, HSAs offer many advantages FSAs lack,” Torre explains in a statement.
“With an HSA, you own your account and keep your funds even if you leave your job, switch insurance plans or retire,” Torre adds. “You can choose your HSA provider, change your contributions at any time and roll over your funds year to year without penalty. You can even invest your HSA funds as an additional retirement-planning vehicle. Now more than ever, health care consumers need to be aware of these differences and how they can leverage an HSA to make their money work smarter for them.”
Health insurance misconceptions cost people money
When asked to evaluate how they thought they did, almost half (46%) guessed they got “all or most” of the questions correct. Younger respondents between 18 and 39 years-old were most likely to assume they did well on the quiz. That includes 52 percent of Millennials and 53 percent of Generation Z. Despite their youthful exuberance, these respondents also performed the worst (8/15 and 9/15, respectively).
All this confusion has real-world consequences on health care consumers. On average, respondents with current health care coverage estimated that they waste $111 per month on confusion over their health insurance plan.
Fifty-nine percent have put off making medical appointments and 53 percent have put off filling a prescription out of uncertainty about their plan. Out of all respondents, regardless of health care coverage, over a third (35%) have delayed getting a necessary check-up out of concern for how much it would cost.
“Unfortunately, many people, especially those who are uninsured, don’t realize that pairing a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with an HSA can be their key to unlocking the health insurance puzzle,” Torre concludes. “It can provide affordable premiums and multiple tax savings opportunities while helping chart a path toward better overall financial health.”
Of those polled, five percent said they do not have a health care plan. Another 11 percent said they did not have any dental or vision coverage.