Takeaways from #SOE2014: The Challenges and Solutions to Improving Health Insurance Literacy

By Guest Blogger

This post was written by Linda Ricci, Co-Founder of Get Covered New York.

When I helped start Get Covered New York in the spring of 2013, I couldn’t have imagined that so many committed health organizers around the country would come together after the first open enrollment period to share their exciting stories of overwhelming success. The State of Enrollment conference offered great ideas at every turn, from how to recruit and mobilize volunteers to using data to working with municipal governments — and much more.

One area of special interest for me is health insurance literacy, so I was very eager to attend the workshop, Health Insurance Literacy: Helping Consumers Understand Their Coverage Options.

The four speakers incisively defined needs and proposed creative solutions to inform and activate consumers.

A few key takeaways:

  • It’s important for health insurance literacy educators to put themselves in the shoes of those who are new to insurance.
  • People who haven’t been insured before might not know what criteria to consider when choosing a plan. Of course, the most basic criteria are the consumer’s budget, the cost of the insurance (both premiums and cost-sharing), and medical needs. But the devil is in the details. Bonnie Braun, one of the panelists leading the SmartChoice program initiative, found that the deductible is the most challenging concept to explain. And the different types of deductibles — individual vs. family as well as separate medical and prescription drugs — make it all the more complicated. Not to mention the complexities of premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, out-of-pocket maximums, benefits, provider networks, and more.
  • Although written materials are helpful, visuals could better engage and educate the consumer. Dave Chandra, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, displayed an effective graphic (below) that illustrated the idea of the deductible, cost-sharing, and maximum out-of-pocket limits. Others recommended multiple ways to convey important insurance information, including verbal explanations, videos, and even a board game.


  • Panelists also addressed a solution that reflected one of the biggest themes of this conference: partnerships. Other groups engaged in enrollment, including ones with volunteer programs, can coordinate with assisters (who could be pressed for time) to educate new enrollees about how they can use their coverage. Another great idea from this highly motivating conference!

Despite the challenges, the good news is that enrolling in insurance is a teachable moment. This is true for those choosing a plan and the others who are renewing their coverage to better understand how to use their insurance to their advantage. Attending #SOE2014 helped me see new ways to take advantage of this opportunity to get important information to consumers!

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