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Next, a small study offers some clues as to why it's so hard to get young people to sign up for health insurance. One problem we've known about is that many don't think they need it. They're young. They're healthy. NPR's Maanvi Singh reports on another problem - they're confused.
MAANVI SINGH, BYLINE: Coinsurance? Premium tax credit? HMO and PPO? I asked some of the sharpest interns around the NPR office if they knew any of these wonky words.
Do you know what a PPO is?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Paying people for operations.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Predatory peacock organization (laughter).
SINGH: It actually stands for preferred provider organization. But these 20-something interns aren't the only ones confused by health insurance jargon. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania sat and observed as 30 college-educated young adults living in Philadelphia tried to sign up for insurance on healthcare.gov. Charlene Wong, who led the study, says most of them struggled.
DR. CHARLENE WONG: Many of them said, you know, I've never tried to do this before and it feels a little bit overwhelming because there are so many different options.
SINGH: Half of these young people couldn't define deductible, which is the amount patients have to pay before their insurance will start to pick up the tab. And the majority had no idea what coinsurance was. That's a percent of your health costs that you pay. Stir some math into this insurance word soup and Wong says that's when you run into real trouble.
WONG: Big numbers, like a deductible of $6,000 with a 20 percent coinsurance and a $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum, you know, it's hard for people to try to do that math.
SINGH: There are some tools available for the totally clueless. An advocacy group called Young Invincibles has come out with an app to help, and you can look up a glossary of terms on healthcare.gov. But Wong says the government and insurance companies need to do a better job of explaining the basics, especially to younger people who are buying insurance for the first time. After all if more healthy, young Americans sign up for insurance, it'll help cover the cost for older, sicker people. Maanvi Singh, NPR News.
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