Industry jargon trips up millennials' health insurance enrollment process

Young adults have a particularly challenging time signing up for plans sold on the federal health insurance exchange largely because of confusing industry jargon, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

In the study, researchers observed about 30 college-educated, Philadelphia-based adults who were between 19 and 30 years old as they navigated through the online enrollment process.

"We asked them to think out loud, so we could really capture their experience," Charlene Wong, lead study author and pediatrician at the University of Pennsylvania, told NPR Shots.

After interviewing participants, Wong and her colleagues found that the young adults felt overwhelmed with the enrollment process because there were so many options and were confused by industry jargon.

In fact, half of the study participants couldn't define "deductible," while three quarters couldn't explain "coinsurance." Previous studies have reached similar conclusions that confusing terms cloud the enrollment process.

And most of the young adults had no idea how much health plans typically cost, believing an affordable plan cost less than $100 a month. Plus, they weren't aware that subsidies might be available.

Considering that the participants were college educated and tech savvy, "we were really surprised at just how much they didn't know," Wong told NPR.

The findings point to the fact that insurers and government agencies should improve their education and outreach efforts by finding creative ways to reach customers.

"This study helps us contextualize the health insurance exchanges through the eyes of young adults. Young adults' perspective on health insurance and enrollment via can inform strategies to design health insurance plans and communication about these plans, in a way that engages and meets the needs of young adult populations," the authors wrote.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the NPR Shots article