A Nutrition Label for Health Insurance Plans?

Appreciating “Search Frictions”

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™


Because products vary so much across many characteristics, health insurance is not easy to shop for. Comparing plans is an apples-to-oranges problem.

Of Search Frictions and Economic Externalities

As a former insurance agent for more than a decade, this is a situation by design – to obfuscate the patient and consumer.  

The challenges of comparison – health insurance plan – shopping then, creates what economist and colleague Austin Frakt PhD calls “search frictions” or inefficiencies in the ability to wisely choose. This may be likened to economic “externalities” and perhaps even motivated the recent development of (draft) standards for health plan labeling.

Beginning March 2012

So, how much will the new health plan labels, required starting next March, help consumers in their search for plans? How much grease will they add to the otherwise highly frictional process? I sure don’t know.

A good place to start however, is an examination of those frictions. What are they and how much do they matter?

Link: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/labels08172011b.pdf


Did food nutrition labeling, and the old food pyramid help – or confuse – consumers? What about the old and new cigarette warning label warnings? Or – the prohibition of alcohol for pregnant women – helpful or not! Any labeling for that matter?


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One Response

  1. 1 in 4 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participants is Disabled
    JAMA Internal Medicine recently published research comparing health spending of participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with other low-income adults. Here are some key findings from the report:
    • SNAP participants spent $1400 per year less on healthcare than other low-income adults
    • The average per-person SNAP benefit across the United States is $129 per month.
    • Approximately 1 in 7 Americans receive assistance through SNAP.
    • SNAP participants were 40.3 years old on average.
    • 84.9% of SNAP participants have public insurance or are uninsured.
    • 1 in 4 SNAP participants is disabled, compared to 10.6% of other low-income adults. 
    Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, September23,  2017


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