Health Insurance – Caveat Emptor

One of the problems with buying health insurance is that it's one of the most complicated purchase any one of us will make in any given year. With the advent of Obamacare scores of people will be buying insurance on an open market for the first time – versus opting from a limited set of options from an employer – and that means the complexity of the process will have an ever greater impact in the coming years. That's what makes this story on Planet Money so scary:

Any day now — assuming the government manages to fix HealthCare.gov — millions of people will start shopping for health insurance.

Will those shoppers know what they're doing? More to the point, if you're one of those shoppers, will you know what you're doing?

Here's a quick quiz, courtesy of economists George Loewenstein and Saurabh Bhargava, who study what people know (and what they think they know) about health insurance. The economists have used longer versions of these quizzes in their research…

While the share of people who answered each question correctly varied, the vast majority of people who took the quizzes got at least something wrong.

And this isn't just some academic artifact: Bhargava and Loewenstein are leading an ongoing study of some 50,000 real-world choices that people make when shopping for insurance — and found that 65 percent of the time, people choose plans that are more expensive than other options but don't provide more benefits.

You should go take the quiz. You might be surprises at how much you think you know that you really don't.

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