Most Americans Have No Clue How Health Insurance Works in America


EBRI has released its annual workplace benefits survey, and for the most part it’s a triumph of status quo bias. Most people are fairly satisfied with their benefits and not especially eager for change. But there’s one particular question that produced a different response. Here it is:

I’m scratching my head a bit over this. The thing is, employer health insurance is the gold standard of American health insurance. Sure, every year employee cost sharing rises and copays go up, but it’s still great compared to nearly all individual plans. Deductibles are small and out-of-pocket maxes are low. Plus it’s nontaxable. If you have a choice between employer insurance and individual health insurance, about 99 percent of the time you’d be crazy not to take the employer plan.

And yet, 66 percent (!) of respondents wanted to go out and choose a plan on the open market and then get reimbursed in one way or another. The only thing I can figure is that this demonstrates just how little most people know about health insurance. They have no idea that the full value of employer health insurance is free of income tax, which makes it a great deal compared to spending your own money. Nor, as so many people are suddenly discovering about Obamacare, do they realize that individual plans usually have large deductibles and stratospheric out-of-pocket maxes. For those reasons, buying an individual plan on the open market and then getting reimbursed for it is almost certainly a losing proposition.

Maybe I’m missing something here, and people understood the question differently than me. But on the surface, this sure seems to indicate that most Americans simply have no clue about how health insurance works in this country.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate