Purchasing health insurance on the marketplace is so confusing that it is impossible for consumers to make rational choices.

By Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs

Until now, I was fortunate enough not to need the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace. My university paid for my health insurance, and the coverage was excellent, and I didn’t realize how good I had it. But then I graduated and had to find insurance on my own. Having now tried to navigate my options on the website that infamously cost $2 billion to make, I have some fresh perspective on why the American health insurance system is utterly dysfunctional and unacceptable.

healthcare.gov website

The first thing you realize when you try to choose a plan on the marketplace is that it is extremely difficult to figure out which health insurance plans will be best for you. For instance, I was presented with 41 different plans. There were bronze, silver, and gold plans (bronze mostly being plans with low monthly payments and high costs for treatment, gold tending to be the opposite). Some plans had “star ratings” supposedly indicating the quality of the user experience, but most didn’t. While the most obvious variables among plans are the monthly premiums and the annual deductibles (for non-American readers, that’s the amount you have to pay each year out of pocket before the insurance actually pays for your care, in addition to the monthly costs), it’s not really clear whether it’s a better deal to pay more per month and have less to pay for treatment, or to pay less per month and have more to pay for treatment. After all, that depends on whether I think I’m likely to get sick in the next year, and the thing about illness is that it’s very hard to anticipate. Will I get into an accident in the next year that requires me to go to the hospital? Well, I don’t really know, do I?

Having to figure out whether to gamble on a low-premium, high-deductible plan or a high-premium, low-deductible plan would be difficult enough on its own. But when you start to look closely at your options on the marketplace, the whole thing gets much, much more confusing. If you’re trying to figure out what care will cost under different plans, and select one rationally, what you will quickly realize is that this is literally impossible. 

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