Young adults might text BFFs that they'll BRB, but they're a bit lost when it comes to their PPOs and HMOs.
A new survey by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota found that only 53 percent of millennials understood the acronym HMO and the meaning of Health Maintenance Organization, compared to 87 percent of senior citizens.
Of course, not many of the young (22 percent) or old (28 percent) knew what an EOB meant. (It's explanation of benefits — those statements telling you how much of a medical bill your health plan will pay.)
Point being, many adults, especially the young, are vexed by the lingo of health insurance at the very time when, because of high-deductible and cost-sharing plans, it's crucial for them to know how their coverage works.
"They need to have a good understanding of kind of the ABCs of health insurance," said Ed Arias, manager of Blue Cross' retail center in Edina.
Blue Cross ordered the survey of 500 Minnesotans in part to promote its retail locations. Starting with Edina in 2014 and expanding more recently to Roseville and Duluth, the state's largest nonprofit health insurance company has offered the storefronts as a way to provide face-to-face advice on choosing plans and interpreting benefits.
Millennials tend to do online research, but often need support making a final decision based on the information they have gathered, Arias said. "Millennials are anxious about buying something that they aren't familiar with."
Other strategies are emerging to address Minnesotans' lack of "health care literacy" and help them understand increasingly complex benefits. A coalition of health care providers and insurers in the state agreed last March on the Minnesota Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, including online training and pledges to use plain language in communications.
University of Minnesota Extension also developed a health literacy course and an online tool kit for people to become more familiar with the workings of their health insurance and doctors.
Arias said people can help themselves by reviewing their plans annually and opening those mundane EOB statements to see what their health plans actually paid for care.
"If you get one of those," he said, "take a peek at it."