Open Your Eyes and Pick a Plan

Audio VersionDecember 13, 2011

Recruiting employees is often referred to as a hit or miss process. Good recruiting managers know that one of the best ways to prevent hit or miss hiring (avoid hiring the wrong person) is to carefully evaluate their options. The same is true in choosing a health insurance plan. However, to effectively evaluate a health insurance plan you need to first understand basic health insurance terms.

If you have difficulty understanding health insurance terms, you are not alone. According to a survey commissioned by eHealth, "less than a quarter of survey respondents (23 percent) reported that they were very sure of what the terminology used in their health insurance policy actually means." If you are one of the "other" 77%, you should know that basic health insurance terms are not difficult to learn, and written definitions of insurance terms are usually included in the health plan summary or on the Internet.

To increase your understanding of health insurance terms and the likelihood of choosing the best health plan for you and your family, consider reviewing the glossary section of the plan's summary plan description or certificate of coverage. These documents are usually available in digital format (either PDF or Word), which makes it easy to search the document by keyword and quickly locate the section you want. For example, open the digital version of the insurance document; choose the find command and type in the word "glossary." (You may have to choose "find next" if the word "glossary" is located in more than one section of the document, but it still beats scrolling through 200 pages to find the glossary of terms you need.) You can also search the Internet for a list of health insurance terms and the meaning of each term. You can locate these lists on major health insurer web sites (Aetna, BCBS, CIGNA, United Healthcare, etc.), or any site that includes health insurance information. A few good health insurance glossary sites to check out are,, and BenefitsAll.

Yet another option for increasing your understanding of health insurance terminology is to contact your Human Resources or Benefits Office representative or your health plan's customer service number.

Take a few minutes to evaluate health insurance plan terms--once a year during your plan renewal or open enrollment period is a good time. You don't have to memorize the meaning of the terms, just know where you can find the information when needed; because not knowing the meaning of basic health insurance terms is like choosing a health plan with your eyes shut.

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