As a key enrollment deadline hits Monday, many people without health insurance have been sizing up policies on the new government health care marketplace and making what seems like a logical choice: They're picking the cheapest one.
Increasingly, experts in health insurance are becoming concerned that many of these first-time buyers will be in for a shock when they get medical care next year and discover they're on the hook for most of the initial cost.
The prospect of sticker shock after Jan. 1, when those who sign up for policies now can begin getting coverage, is seen as a looming problem for a new national system that has been plagued by trouble since the new marketplaces went online in the states in October.
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For those without insurance — about 15 percent of the population — "the lesson is it's important to understand the total cost of ownership of a plan," said Matt Eyles, a vice president of Avalere Health, a market analysis firm. "You just don't want to look only at the premium."
Counselors who have been helping people choose policies say many are focused only on the upfront cost, not what the insurance companies agree to pay.