Taking the Mystery out of Selecting the Right Health Insurance: Help is Here

A Point of View by Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer, Merck

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Millions of Americans are about to dive into an anxiety-producing alphabet soup of insurance choices. We are entering health insurance “open enrollment season,” which has become as synonymous with fall as the flu season or kids going back to school. Unfortunately, for too many people, how to make a good choice about health insurance remains a mystery. And with as many as 77 percent of consumers not knowing the difference between an HMO, PPO and an HDHP—the basic health insurance options—many will just skip the details and choose their health plans based on the monthly premium cost.

The consequences of this lack of understanding can be substantial. Focusing on the premium, and not on what the insurance covers and expects you to cover, means that individuals and families could be exposed to the unpleasant surprise of high out-of-pocket costs or limited choices of providers, treatments and care facilities. All too often, there are cases where a health catastrophe brings crippling medical bills to those with insufficient coverage. Conversely, we have all witnessed the struggle of friends and colleagues weighed down by the cost of coverage they may never need.

To help with this problem, Merck collaborated with health literacy experts to design a simple online guide to buying and using health care insurance: Know Your Health Insurance. This guide, found on MerckEngage, is free and unbiased. It uses entertaining and interactive tools to teach consumers about insurance options that make sense for their families’ financial and health care needs. It also helps them understand the difference between a “Gold” federal plan and one that is simply “Silver.” The guide also helps people get the information they need when they seek insurance advice from their employer or benefits manager.

Knowing how to choose the right health insurance should never feel like a mystery. I hope you will explore the guide today, share the link with your family, friends and colleagues, and see why hundreds of thousands of people have already visited the Know Your Health Insurance site to help find answers to their questions about buying insurance.