1 in 3 North Carolinians are Health Insurance Illiterate, Reveals Survey

  • Wyomingites came in first place (77%) when it came to having the highest healthcare insurance literacy score.
  • South Carolinians emerged in last place with a score of just 43%.
  • Interactive quiz included.

Some companies describe them as Terms and Conditions, while others call them Privacy Policy, User Agreements, or Terms of Service – whatever the description, the average consumer can attest to simply scrolling through the fine print to download a new app, sign up to a new streaming service, or even purchasing health insurance. In rare cases, these companies emphasize the importance of reading legal text carefully by having a bit of fun at their customers’ expense. A few years ago, F-Secure managed to get some of their customers to inadvertently give away their first born child in exchange for free Wifi.  And as an April’ Fools Joke, 7,500 online shoppers accidentally sold their ‘immortal souls’ to GameStation. However, jokes aside, if people are not careful, there are often legalized texts buried in agreements which could prove costly in a number of ways…

This is certainly the case when it comes to purchasing health insurance. Oftentimes, phrases and acronyms such as UCR, POS, or HMO can be complex, and it’s easy to get confused if you’re not certain what you’re covered for. Of course, reading the fine print is one part of the challenge, but understanding it is crucial. Duffy & Duffy, a medical malpractice law firm, conducted a survey (3,251 respondents) to establish where people are the most and least literate when it comes to health insurance.  The survey discovered that overall, over 1 in 3 (39%) North Carolinians cannot correctly identify common acronyms or terminology linked to health insurance. This compares to a national average of 41%.

Respondents were presented with various acronyms and given a choice of 4 answers. When it came to identifying the meaning of ‘UCR’, concerningly, just 18% of North Carolinians got this answer correct: UCR stands for Usual, Customary and Reasonable. Some thought it stood for Urgent Care and Rehabilitation, while others assumed it meant Urgent Claims Receipt. A minority understood it to mean Ultimate Co-Insurance Rejection. It is described as the amount paid for a medical service in a geographic area based on what providers in the area usually charge for the same or similar medical service.

North Carolinians were also quizzed on the correct interpretation of the ‘POS’ acronym. 73% knew straight away that POS stands for Point of Service (Plan) – it is a managed-care health insurance plan that provides different benefits for using in-network or out-of-network providers. However, some incorrectly thought it meant Primary Out-of-Network Service, or identified it as Patient Opt-In Self-Insurance. Lastly, a few assumed it meant Policy Opt-Out Solution.

The third question, in which respondents scored highest overall, was to describe the meaning of HMO. 93% of North Carolinians overwhelmingly knew that HMO stands for Health Maintenance Organization – a medical insurance group that provides health services for a fixed annual fee. A smaller proportion thought that it meant Health Market Overhead or Hospital Malpractice Occurrence. Lastly, a few respondents thought it meant Hazardous Medical Option.

When broken down across states, Wyomingites came in first place when it came to having the highest healthcare insurance literacy score: a solid score of 77%. Comparatively, South Carolinians emerged in last place with a score of just 43%.