Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health Insurance Contracts Should Be Written in Plain English


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It's probably a bad sign about the readability of a health insurance contract when even the insurance company cannot decipher it. A great New York Times article by the executive counsel of the Rhode Island Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner describes just such a scenario and makes persuasive arguments about why health insurance contracts need to be written at a more accessible reading level.

Plain English is the Best Policy

It is hard to believe that very many of the 200 million Americans who have private health insurance understand their own coverage. Anyone who has spent time trying to read a health insurance policy would be justified in assuming that it was written by lawyers and technocrats for other lawyers and technocrats — not for the average person. Our analysis of policies in Rhode Island found that most are written at a college to graduate-school reading level. Given that the average Rhode Islander reads at an eighth-grade level, we have decided to require, beginning next year, that all policies in our state be written at that level.

While the Obama administration and Congress are at work reforming the American health care system, they should take the opportunity to make sure that, in the future, all Americans can read their health insurance policies.

I'm a huge proponent of the legal writing in plain English movement. This is perhaps most needed in the writing of health insurance contracts.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.