Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A few days ago, I received in U.S. Mail a notice from UniCare that the premiums on my health insurance were going up. Given that my health plan covers little and now is going to cost more than twice as much as it did four years ago, I decided to research other options.

I originally signed up for my health insurance plan through, a helpful service that enabled me to browse and compare numerous plans from a number of different providers. At the site, you can specify various plan features (deductible, co-pay, etc.), view a list of plans that satisfy those parameters, and compare the plan details.

It's a great concept. Unfortunately, it has nonetheless frustrated me. The reason is that the service focuses on the features of health insurance plans rather than addressing real-world scenarios.

This morning, I went to to research alternatives to my existing plan. I brought up various plans but scratched my head when trying to determine what they would and wouldn't cover. So I called their customer service to speak to a health insurance "agent".

The agent immediately asked me what I wanted in a plan. I told her that I don't know and suggested we walk through various scenarios and see which plans best covered them.
  1. I get into a car wreck, suffer massive internal injuries, and go to the hospital for surgery.
  2. I get a minor cut on my leg and go to a minor emergency center for stitches.
  3. I go to the doctor for a routine check-up.
  4. I go to the doctor to get a prostate exam (leaving aside the fact that the one prostate exam I've received was the most unpleasant experience in my entire life).
The agent's response? "I don't have time to go through all that. Just tell me what you want," she replied. "Do you want a co-pay?"

At this point, I told her I was frustrated. She was assuming I was an expert on health insurance concepts. All I know is that there are various types of scenarios. Some plans address them well, and others don't. Co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket limits mean nothing to me except insofar as they affect the bottom line in these types of scenarios.

Though she initially refused to walk through the scenarios with me, she effectively did by the end of the conversation. I felt educated enough to compare plans and make a decision. Despite the fact I was still seething with frustration, I thanked her for her patience.

What product management lessons does this experience teach? I'll examine some of them in a future entry.


Michael said...

I have to but my own health insurance too, which is a royal pain in the ass.

I use these guys ( and they are awesome. I've called the agent up to ask him all sorts of questions and he's always hella nice. It's not a mega company, he's just an agent, and, most important, a human, not a pile of flesh with a phone attached to their ear and script in front on their face ;)

Anonymous said...

You should always deal with your local health insurance agent. Big companies do not care about your health insurance needs, they are only out to sell you a health insurance plan. When you deal with a health agent they take the time to go over your health care needs as well as your budget. I bought my California health insurance through: