Making Health Insurance Choices Understandable for Consumers

February 4, 2011
February 4, 2011, Noon – 2:00 PMKaiser Family Foundation’s
Barbara Jordan Conference Center
1330 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005 (map)

The goal for this event was to shed light on what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to consumers’ understanding of health insurance.

Download a brief summary of the event (PDF).

Please let us know what you thought of the event, go to for a short online evaluation.


Opening Remarks: Diane Archer, Special Counsel and Co-Director of the Healthcare for All Project, Institute for America’s Future

Featured Presentation: Lynn Quincy, Senior Policy Analyst, Consumers Union
Ms. Quincy will present the findings from our recent study, Early Consumer Testing of New Health Insurance Disclosure Forms. This study reveals that understanding health insurance forms can be a daunting, if not impossible, task for consumers.

Panel Discussion:

  • Kristin Carman, co-director of Health Policy and Research, AIR
  • Frank Funderburk, Director, Division of Research, CMS
  • Karen Pollitz, Director, Office of Consumer Support, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, CMS
  • Shoshanna Sofaer, Luciano Professor of Healthcare Policy, Baruch College/CUNY

Moderated Discussion with all presenters: Audience Q & A



Making Health Insurance Cost-Sharing Clear to Consumers: Challenges in Implementing Health Reform’s Insurance Disclosure Requirements (download PDF)

Early Consumer Testing of New Health Insurance Disclosure Forms (download PDF)

NAIC’s Health Insurance Disclosure form (PDF) and Glossary (PDF)

How much protection does health insurance offer and how can consumers know? (view webpage)

Sofaer, S., E. Kenney and B.N. Davidson, “The Impact of the Illness Episode Approach on Medicare Beneficiaries’ Health Insurance Decisions” Health Services Research, December, 1992, Vol. 27(5):671-694. (download PDF)

Getting Tools Used. Center for Advancing Health (download PDF)

Presenter Biographies:

Diane Archer
Special Counsel and Co-Director of the Healthcare for All Project
Institute for America’s Future

Diane Archer is an attorney and healthcare authority. As Co-Director of the Healthcare Project at IAF, she leads a national effort to discuss and debate progressive solutions to the challenge of providing quality, affordable healthcare to everyone in America.  Ms. Archer is the past president of the Medicare Rights Center (MRC), a national consumer service organization dedicated to ensuring that older and disabled Americans get the healthcare they need, which she founded in 1989 and on whose Board she served until December 2007. She is now launching a new non-profit organization that will identify and address delays and denials of care in the private insurance marketplace.  Ms. Archer currently serves on the Board of Directors of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.  She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Wellesley College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Kristin Carman
Co-Director, Health Policy & Research Program, American Institutes for Research (AIR)Dr. Carman co-leads a team of over 40 health services research professionals conducting research on issues of public importance in healthcare quality, access, health-related communications, financing, comparative effectiveness research, and consumer engagement. Her work developing and evaluating materials for use by consumers, purchasers, and healthcare providers includes a specific emphasis on explaining evidence-based information for use in decision-making. She is well regarded for her work assessing the performance of healthcare organizations and determining how best to enable improvement in organizational performance. In addition, Dr. Carman is a nationally known expert on reporting healthcare quality and delivery information and the development and testing of effective data displays of complex information (paper and web-based). Finally, Dr. Carman has developed products, materials, and technical assistance to support organizations and communities to engage the public in their health and healthcare.
Frank Funderburk
Director, Division of Research

Mr. Funderburk is responsible for the strategic planning, implementation and analysis of a variety of healthcare research efforts that support and enhance CMS communications activities. Areas of focus include developing data-driven communication strategies that can overcome persistent informational, attitudinal, and motivational barriers to better healthcare, including those related to health and digital literacy.  His research has included evaluation of the effectiveness of a variety of outreach and education campaigns as well as a recent experimental study of direct marketing strategies for improving outreach to vulnerable beneficiaries eligible for but not enrolled in the Low Income Subsidy.  He has investigated ways in which healthcare decision making style can influence beneficiary perception of Medicare programs as well as receptivity to specific outreach and communication activities.

Karen Pollitz
Director, Office of Consumer Support, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight
Prior to joining the Department of Health and Human Services, Ms. Pollitz served as a Research Professor at the Georgetown University Health policy institute. There she directed research on health insurance reform issues as they affect consumers and patients. Her areas of focus included regulation of private health insurance plans and markets, managed care consumer protections, and access to affordable health insurance. She was also an adjunct professor in Georgetown’s Graduate Public Policy School.  Before joining the Institute faculty, Ms. Pollitz served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Legislation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1993 to 1997. From 1984 to 1991, Ms. Pollitz worked as a health policy advisor to several Members of Congress.
Lynn Quincy
Senior Policy Analyst
Consumers Union
Lynn Quincy works on a wide variety of health policy issues, focusing primarily on the areas of consumer protection and health insurance reform at the federal and state levels. Ms. Quincy serves as a consumer representative with National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). She recently completed a grant-funded project that conducted consumer testing of the new health insurance disclosure forms being developed by the NAIC.  Prior to joining CU, she held senior positions at Mathematica Policy Research, the Institute for Health Policy Solutions, and Watson Wyatt Worldwide (now Towers Watson). She holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Maryland.
Shoshanna Sofaer
Luciano Professor of Healthcare Policy
Baruch College/CUNY
Dr. Sofaer has over 25 years of experience studying how best to provide usable information to consumers that help them make important healthcare decisions.  Her early work,  conducted when people with Medicare first got access to HMOs, tested an innovative model called the Illness Episode Approach that helps people compare the actual out of pocket costs they might face under different healthcare coverage options without having to learn the jargon of health insurance.  This early work is being re-examined to help develop decision support tools under the PPACA.  Other work includes additional exploration of information needed by people choosing a plan, as well as providers of all kinds. She completed her M.P.H. and Dr. P.H. degrees at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, specializing in health planning, policy and management.