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The Math Skills Lacking Among the Uninsured

We have yet another study indication that people are going to have a very tough time using the Affordable Care Act health exchanges effectively. New research from the Urban Institute found that a large percentage of uninsured adults under 65 and making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line acknowledge they are not very good at math.

Among this group only 42.4 percent ranked their ability to work with numbers as excellent or very good. Another 27.7 percent ranked their skills as good and 28.7 percent said their ability to work with numbers was fair or poor.

Already we have seen several studies showing the Americans expected to use the health care exchanges have very poor health insurance literacy. Most don’t understand all the terms and how they fit together. But this new information is important because even if we somehow solve the problem of health care literacy we still face another big hurdle.

Even if you fully understand how all the elements of a health insurance policy fit together you still can’t make the optimal financial choice on the exchange without being able to do some very complicated algebra based on that information. To make the right choice you need to calculate how much each policy will cost out of pocket after factoring in your prescriptions, likely lab tests, average number of doctor visits,  and treatments. This of course needs to be combined with calculating your yearly probability of a serious accident or illness adjusted for how much that would cost.

The whole foundation of the Affordable Care Act relies on regular people being savvy health consumers and given the complexity involved that is clearly not going to happen.

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The Math Skills Lacking Among the Uninsured

We have yet another study indication that people are going to have a very tough time using the Affordable Care Act health exchanges effectively. New research from the Urban Institute found that a large percentage of uninsured adults under 65 and making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line acknowledge they are not very good at math.

Among this group only 42.4 percent ranked their ability to work with numbers as excellent or very good. Another 27.7 percent ranked their skills as good and 28.7 percent said their ability to work with numbers was fair or poor.

Already we have seen several studies showing the Americans expected to use the health care exchanges have very poor health insurance literacy. Most don’t understand all the terms and how they fit together. But this new information is important because even if we somehow solve the problem of health care literacy we still face another big hurdle.

Even if you fully understand how all the elements of a health insurance policy fit together you still can’t make the optimal financial choice on the exchange without being able to do some very complicated algebra based on that information. To make the right choice you need to calculate how much each policy will cost out of pocket after factoring in your prescriptions, likely lab tests, average number of doctor visits,  and treatments. This of course needs to be combined with calculating your yearly probability of a serious accident or illness adjusted for how much that would cost.

The whole foundation of the Affordable Care Act relies on regular people being savvy health consumers and given the complexity involved that is clearly not going to happen.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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