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Survey Shows Steep Health Plan Learning Curve E-mail
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Confusing terms may keep people from getting full benefit of coverage. Whatever the next election delivers on promises of health care reform, consumers face a steep learning curve to understand common concepts that describe their coverage.

"Almost nine out of ten people in this country have some kind of health insurance coverage. But our focus groups show they don't understand the language and that makes them afraid to use it," said Robert Harris, who oversees Regence's market research. "It will be difficult for many health system reform ideas to get traction when people literally don't know what we are talking about."

Regence research measures - for the first time - true levels of consumer understanding of health insurance concepts. Previous surveys gauged self-reported understanding, but Regence asked 961 people with insurance to define terms and calculate their bill.
  • Sixty percent answered correctly just half the time
  • Four in 100 achieved an 80 percent score

Fear and embarrassment keep people from asking what words mean, according to research following the survey. 

"One thing we learned is that glossaries don't cut it," said Harris. "Our industry must simplify our language to help people get full value from their health plan."

Regence offers member education and assistance features such as:
  • mouse-over industry-specific terms to get instant definitions
  • myRegence: Live Help instant chat to advise and navigate; email questions
  • Customer Service training: Emphasizes advocacy and problem-solving
Case management nurses: Help people understand their coverage Other findings:
  • People rate their health plan as the most trustworthy source of information on their insurance coverage.
  • 9 in 10 insured people feel adequately protected by their health plan

About Regence Regence is the largest health insurer in the Northwest / Intermountain Region, offering health, life and dental insurance. Regence serves three million members as Regence BlueShield of Idaho, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Regence BlueShield (selected counties in Washington) and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah. Each health plan is a not-for-profit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Regence is committed to improving the health of our members and our communities, and to transforming our health care system. For more information, please visit

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