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Does Your Health Insurance Policy Read Like Gibberish? Posted: March 22nd, 2010

By Joe Taylor Jr.

Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.

You're not alone if you can't understand your health insurance policy. In fact, a recent analysis of customer communications from leading health care providers revealed that roughly seven out of 10 companies generate "explanation of benefits" letters that consumers can't understand. The team behind the study suggests that stronger communication and customer service can help consumers make stronger health insurance comparisons.

Health Insurance Companies Look to Banks for Communication Practices

Experts at DALBAR, Inc. have spent the past few decades analyzing and streamlining customer-service documents for clients in the financial services sector. Last year, they turned their attention to the health insurance industry. In their analysis, only about one-third of companies earned a designation of "good" or better.

Even government communications to Medicare recipients failed to meet DALBAR's guidelines for effective communication. Those guidelines include:

  • Clarifying how much a patient may owe and to whom
  • Communicating next steps for a patient or customer to take
  • Confirming whether patients should keep or discard particular documents

Only three firms of 34 surveyed used charts or graphics to convey information to patients--a technique that DALBAR experts credit with revolutionizing customer service at banks and brokerage firms.

Service Distinctions Join Health Insurance Quotes as Competitive Advantage

DALBAR expects to see the same focus on customer service that heated competition in the banking industry. According to industry analysts, most consumers look for the cheapest health insurance they can find, but comparisons of customer service and claims management have fueled competition in the auto and home insurance industries. Perhaps the same trend will be seen in the health insurance industry. Even consumers looking for cheap health insurance want the assurance that they can understand what their providers are selling them.

Joe Taylor Jr.