In search of clar­ity

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

What does a Mary­land in­surer’s ex­pla­na­tion of ben­e­fits have in com­mon with Microsoft’s eye-glaz­ing terms of ser­vice state­ment and an un­in­tel­li­gi­ble “in­ter­pre­ta­tive” ex­pla­na­tion of a New Jer­sey bal­lot ques­tion? Bad writ­ing, it turns out. All three were named fi­nal­ists for the Cen­ter for Plain Lan­guage’s Won­derMark Award, which, de­spite its up­beat-sound­ing name, is ac­tu­ally a tongue-in-cheek dis­tinc­tion that goes an­nu­ally to or­ga­ni­za­tions that pub­lish aw­ful or con­fus­ing prose. The other fi­nal­ists for this year’s Won­derMark were the Vet­er­ans Ben­e­fits Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­struc­tions for its my­Pay sys­tem, and the web­site Carseat­, which pub­lishes an in­struc­tion man­ual telling read­ers, “Read the in­struc­tion man­ual.”

But in a de­vel­op­ment likely to sur­prise no one who has ever re­ceived health­care, the Won­derMark award for most con­fus­ing lan­guage in 2010 went to an in­surer. Namely, Care­First Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mary­land. Judges noted the Care­First EOB form’s con­vo­luted col­umns of code and num­bers, in­clud­ing one marked “This is the amount provider can col­lect from you for these ser­vices” was es­pe­cially per­plex­ing in light of an­other sen­tence at the bot­tom of the third page: “This is not a bill.”

Out­liers would like to note that Care­First’s EOB is not un­like many oth­ers we’ve seen. So maybe the health in­surance in­dus­try can con­sider it a group prize! Congratulations!

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