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Wonkblog Post says consumers don’t understand health insurance, shows Wonkblog does not understand health insurance

August 9, 2013

Wonkblog’s coverage of a quiz used to test public knowledge of health insurance shows that Wonkblog does not understand health insurance. Possibly, neither do authors of the article covered. The quiz included questions on four health insurance terms: “Out of Pocked Maximum”, “Coinsurance”, “Copay” and “Deductible”.

The choices offered to define “Coinsurance”:

  1. A specific dollar amount you pay for a specific service
  2. The total amount you are required to pay until you reach your deductible
  3. The percent of the cost of medical services that the insurer pays
  4. The amount your employer contributes to paying for your health premium
  5. I’m not sure

None of the choices correctly define “Coinsurance”. “Coinsurance is the reverse of choice three. The proper answer would  be “The percent of the cost of medical services that the *insured* pays”. Or in line with phrasing in other questions “The percent of the cost of medical services that *you* pay”

I’m hoping that this particular error did not make it through peer review, and that it is simply a typo in the Wonkblog report. That certainly seems the most likely explanation. However, whether the error was in the information Wonkblog was given or made somewhere in the copying or editing process, it should have been spotted. Especially since a correct definition is given in an image of an insurance form at the bottom of the Wonkblog article: “Coinsurance is your share of the costs the allowed amount for the service.”

The Wonkblog post by Sarah Kliff, : “Do you understand health insurance? Most people don’t.” can be found at . I hope at some point it will be corrected if the error was Wonkblog’s. If the error was made in the quiz used in the journal article, I hope that Wonkblog will publish a follow up post.

The refereed article whose lead author is George Loewenstein, “Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance” published in the September 2013 issue of The Journal of Health Economics  can be found behind a paywall at .  A non-paywall version that may or may not stay up can be found at (pdf). I cannot find actual copies of the quiz, other that the images in the Wonkblog post. I have contacted Dr. Loewenstein and Sarah Kliff, so will fill update this post as soon as it becomes public where the error occurred.

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