People in the U.S. covered by employer-sponsored health insurance assess their health insurance choices with the help of their human resource departments. Here, Blondie and Dagwood are having a discussion about three alternatives:

  • A low cost plan
  • A higher cost plan with better coverage
  • A high-deductible health plan for doctors who are outside of the plan’s network.

Dagwood’s solution? “Stay healthy.”

Would that it were so easy!

Evaluating health insurance options is no simple task, even for the savviest, Consumer Reports-reading consumers. Health citizens who want to engage as health care consumers look for trusted sources on how to make rational choices for health plans and doctors. Now comes the news that the California Medical Association will sue Blue Shield of California on behalf of physicians in the state to block the insurer from using the Blue Ribbon report card program that identifies so-called “high quality” physicians. RAND recently found that physician ratings are wrong 22% of the time.

Thanks to Mark White, economics professor at the City University of New York (Staten Island) for alerting me to this cartoon.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Blondie and Dagwood may fall into the “health plan illiteracy” segment of consumers who don’t quite understand how health plans work. It’s not entirely their fault. The way health plan language is written is often arcane, complicated, and understandable only to those with an MBA in health policy.

Employers who are generous enough to provide health plans to employees would benefit from more effective health plan choice and utilization by company employees. They should work with either clever in-house staff or outsource the job to third parties who can create engaging, helpful content to re-educate health plan enrollees. This is the job for health plans, who haven’t been as consumer-friendly as they could be. When we re-imagine the world of Health Plans 2.0, this is one feature we look forward to very soon. As 30+ million newly-insured people get absorbed into health insurance rolls, consumer-friendly health plan language will be a critical success factor for those serving this emerging market.