Selecting health insurance one of life's most difficult decisions

By Maryalene LaPonsie on September 21st, 2012

With open enrollment right around the corner, many Americans will be facing one of their most difficult decisions of the year: selecting a medical insurance plan.

The Empowered Health Index Survey, conducted by insurer Aetna, found choosing health insurance benefits was ranked as the second most difficult major life decision -- even tougher than parenting decisions. Only saving for retirement ranked higher.

Health insurance plans 'confusing and complicated'

The survey asked consumers to identify which major life decisions they consider most difficult. In addition to retirement savings and health care benefits, the choices included selecting auto, renters or homeowners insurance; purchasing a car; parenting; and making medical treatment and testing decisions.

Why is choosing a health plan so hard? Consumers cited the following reasons most frequently:

  • Eighty-eight percent said health plan information is confusing and complicated.
  • Eighty-four percent said conflicting information is presented.
  • Eighty-three percent said it's difficult to know which medical insurance plan is right for them.

Survey considers consumer health care trends

Besides asking consumers about their most difficult life decisions, the survey also measured how they handle their own health care. The results show a sizable portion of consumers pay little attention to health care costs, and a troubling number skip recommended treatments.

  • Forty-three percent say they rarely or never track their spending on out-of-pocket health care costs.
  • Although more than three-quarters of consumers believe the key elements of health reform are important, 41 percent say they need more information to understand how the provisions will impact their family.
  • Forty-one percent have stopped taking a prescription drug, skipped a dose or delayed a necessary medical procedure.
  • People with health problems are most likely to skip care. Seventy-six percent of consumers in fair or poor health and 57 percent of those with chronic conditions report they had purposely skipped or delayed care.

"The results of the Aetna Empowered Health Index Survey help us better understand the challenges that consumers are facing today," Dr. Wendy Shanahan-Richards, a national medical director for Aetna, said in a press statement. "We want to arm consumers with as much useful, easy-to-understand information as possible to help them make more informed health benefits choices and take better control of their health."

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