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Insurers Required to Ditch the Jargon

Health reform requires insurers to give simple health plan summaries.

English will soon become the language of choice for health insurance companies, replacing their traditional dialect of legalese, mumbo-jumbo and fine print.

The change—courtesy of the federal health reform law—should reduce the headaches and stress eating caused by having to compare health insurance plans. It should also make it easier for the 150 million Americans with private health insurance to select a plan that fits their needs.

Before, if you wanted to know whether your elective chin tuck would be covered, you would have to spend hours with a magnifying glass trying to understand the insurance companies’ nearly incomprehensible marketing materials.

Starting September 23, insurers will be required to provide you with a “concise and comprehensible” summary listing what is and isn't covered and what copays you have to dish out. In telling the insurance companies to speak English, the government has opened the door for you to understand exactly what the health plans include and at what cost to you.

Government officials are calling this the “nutrition label for health care,” referring to the easy-to-read panels on packaged foods. In addition to key details about the plan, insurers will also need to provide “coverage examples,” which show the average cost for common health conditions such as diabetes and normal childbirth.

Although the country is divided on the overall health reform law, 84 percent support the simplified insurance summaries, according to a poll last year. The new labels may not be perfect, but it’s a start, say consumer groups.

Maybe someday we’ll have a health care pyramid that tells us to use cosmetic surgery sparingly.

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