KPLU's Annotated Guide To The Health Insurance Gobbledygook You Need To Know

Mar 24, 2014

One thing about the Affordable Care Act is that now we’re all expected to be informed consumers about buying insurance. If you’ve never done that, you might be surprised at all the jargon you’re supposed to know. And if you’ve waited until the last minute to enroll — most people have until March 31 to sign up and dodge the fine, it’s time to start cramming.

It turns out many of us are barely literate when it comes to health insurance and the Affordable Care Act. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds 42 percent of people could not accurately define the term "deductible," and that’s kind of an easy one. Lower-income people, whom health care reform is supposed to help, answered just four out of 11 questions right about the law.

The jargon isn’t just off-putting; it’s also crucial to understanding how much a plan really costs. If you’re shopping for a plan based just on the monthly bill, you could be missing a whole bunch of information you need in order to figure out what you can afford.

That means getting familiar with than just premiums, but also copayment and coinsurance, bronze levels and, my favorite, the drug formulary. If you want to be boring, you can get all this information from a glossary published by Or you can have a little fun checking out our handy annotated graphic above.

Better yet, print out the PDF version and tack to your workspace for easy reference.

Still better, click the “listen” link above to hear the audio version, complete with radio footnotes, before printing up the cheat sheet. Flash cards are optional.