Let's Make Health Insurance Policies Readable

Legal mumbo-jumbo means patients can't tell what they're covered for
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Aug 20, 2009 8:31 AM CDT
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. reads a letter July 17, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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(Newser) – There’s one important health care issue that’s generated little chatter: the oft-inscrutable language of insurance policies, writes Rhode Island health official John Cogan in the New York Times. Policies are penned at a grad-school level, which led his state to require, as of next year, that they be written at the level most people in Rhode Island read at: eighth-grade. But it's not just the policy holders who have trouble.

Cogan cites the case of a client who couldn't figure out why his chemo wasn't being covered: The insurance company said it was "still sorting through the policy" and "needed more time. Even the insurance company had trouble understanding its own contract." The man's care eventually got covered, but "but people—especially when they are sick—shouldn’t need to rely on state agencies to help them decipher their insurance policies." The federal government, says Cogan, should step in and follow Rhode Island’s example.