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Most health insurance enrollees don't understand how their coverage works for COVID-19 coronavirus

At the same time, 64% say they could not afford to pay out their full annual deductible if hospitalized for treatment of the coronavirus.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Sixty-nine percent of close to 600 individual and family health insurance enrollees lack a basic understanding of how testing and treatment of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus would be covered by their health insurance plan, according to a new survey released by eHealth.

A similar figure, 64%, say they could not afford to pay out their full annual deductible if hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the college educated and affluent are better able to make lifestyle adjustments in the face of coronavirus: 52% of college graduates and 60% of those with incomes of $100,000 to $150,000 say they have a job allowing them work from home, compared to 19% of those with a high school education and 36% of those earning less than $25,000 per year.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

When it comes to understanding their coverage, more men than women report confidence in that regard, with 36% of men saying they have a basic understanding of how coverage for coronavirus works under their health plan, compared to 27% of women. The reason for the discrepancy was not clear.

As with many issues during a presidential election year, there was also a political divide. Republican voters were more likely than Democratic voters to feel they understood their coverage: 41% of likely Republican voters say they had a basic understanding of how the coverage for coronavirus works under their health plan, compared to 24% of likely Democratic voters.

There was another gender divide pertaining to perceived affordability, with men more likely than women to say they can pay their annual deductible: 48% of men say they could afford to pay their annual deductible if hospitalized for coronavirus, compared to 32% of women.

College grads are more likely than the high school educated to be able to pay their annual deductible, with 45% of college graduates saying they could afford to pay their annual deductible if hospitalized, compared to 29% of those with only a high school education.

For many, the workaround is to do whatever is necessary to avoid contracting the virus to begin with. Almost three quarters said they're washing their hands more frequently, and more than half say they're avoiding touching their face – both safety measures that have been promoted by public health experts.

Thirty-nine percent said they're avoiding public places, while 18% are stocking up on food and other supplies, and 10% are working from home.

THE LARGER TREND

Confusion over insurance isn't limited solely to coronavirus concerns. More than one in four people (27.2%) have avoided care or treatment because they were unsure of what their health insurance covered, a November Policygenius survey found.

The findings suggest people are increasingly confused about their coverage. For instance, this year's survey found more than 85% don't know the basic benefits that health insurance plans must cover under the Affordable Care Act, compared to 80% in 2018 and 78% in 2017.

Americans are also confused about basic health insurance facts. Only 29.3% of respondents were able to correctly define all three of the most common health care expenses – premiums, copays and deductibles. Even among people with health insurance, only 36.1% knew all three terms.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com