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Insight & Analysis / Mapping Data A to Z: Health Literacy

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How well would you do on a quiz of health insurance knowledge?

I started thinking about this when I heard the words that Colorado eighth-grader Sylvie Lamontagne fielded in the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.




While Sylvie mastered these terms, she got tripped up on “chaoborine,” which is a type of gnat. Such as, “I just hate when a chaoborine lands in my lemonade.”

Sylvie still managed to win fourth place in the contest. As for me, my thoughts went to health insurance and the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS).

The closest thing the CHAS has to a spelling bee is a series of survey questions posed to all adult respondents. They’re asked how confident they are in understanding four basic health insurance terms:

  • Premium
  • Deductible
  • Copayment
  • Co-insurance

So how well did Colorado do in the insurance bee?

About 62 percent of adults said they felt confident in their understanding of all four terms. This seems about right, given that over half of Coloradans have commercial insurance — where these terms are used often.

We then broke it down by region.

It turns out that areas with high uninsured or Medicaid rates also tend to have low rates of confidence in understanding these terms. These regions include northwest and southwest Colorado and the San Luis Valley.

That’s not surprising, as lower numbers of commercially insured residents may indicate lower familiarity with these terms. It’s trickier to understand the pattern on the Front Range. The highest rates of confidence — where over 70 percent indicated they understood the terms — are in rural regions immediately to the east and west of the metro Denver area. The uninsured rates in these places are closer to the state uninsured rate of 6.7 percent.

It’s unclear why Health Statistics Region 16 — Boulder and Broomfield counties — has the second lowest percentage of residents who feel confident in understanding these terms at 54 percent. This finding is unexpected because this area tends to be more affluent, educated and insured.

It’s important to assess Coloradans’ knowledge of how health insurance works. With more Coloradans insured than ever before, many policy conversations are shifting from whether people have coverage to whether they know how to use it.

Oh — and the chaoborine of health insurance? The term “co-insurance.” While upwards of 90 percent of Coloradans said they knew the other three terms, only 65.4 percent expressed confidence in understanding co-insurance. (It’s the percentage of health care costs that you pay after you’ve met your plan’s deductible.)

And stay tuned! Next week the Colorado Health Institute will release a brand new CHAS analysis that explores health coverage literacy topics in depth.

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