by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I’m guessing that most of us get a chuckle from the television commercial featuring the senior lady who brags about posting photos to her (living room) wall and “unfriends” the pal sitting in her home. But many of us among the 40-something crowd must realize that we appear not that different from that Facebook-challenged lady when we’re discussing technological developments with younger adults and teens.
Even highly educated young adults struggle to understand and navigate HealthCare.gov, according to a study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The most highly-prized Obamacare target, young and healthy adults, were often stumped by the federal website, which the Obama administration had promised would be easy and accessible for everyone — like popular comparison websites such as Kayak or Amazon.
Young, Internet-literate, highly-educated professionals struggled with poor access to information on HealthCare.gov — details on the plans, comparisons, subsidies and even basic health insurance terms were too hard to come by.
University of Pennsylvania researchers followers 33 subjects for three months as they struggled to get coverage from the federal website. The young professionals were both the best-prepared demographic to get coverage online — highly educated and familiar with the Internet — and the most desirable group as well — young, healthy and inexpensive for insurers.
But many were confused by the website layout and were unable to access correct information to pick out a plan. Respondents were confused by the application for premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions in particular, which made it difficult to determine how much a specific health care plan cost.
The current system in practice at HealthCare.gov made “more comprehensive coverage appear cheaper than less comprehensive coverage,” when the opposite is actually true, potentially leading young adults into purchasing more expensive plans they may not be able to afford.
Many of the options are poorly laid out, according to those surveyed, and the website doesn’t offer sufficient comparisons between different plans. Young professionals were frustrated that they couldn’t match plans to their preferences — in premiums, narrow networks or covered services, for example — as is possible on the websites President Obama vowed HealthCare.gov would live up to.