“People want advice, they want guidance,” Mr. Lang said. “And it’s pretty hard.”
The people most likely to make bad choices appear to be those least able to afford it. A recent study in the Netherlands, which offers insurance to everyone through an Obamacare-like marketplace, found that only 5 percent of Dutch customers did a better job at choosing an ideal plan than they would have by choosing a plan at random. And the people in that top 5 percent tended to be have college degrees and jobs in technical fields. People with less education and income, who tend to be in worse health, were very likely to choose a plan that cost them more to cover their health care — a situation that might leave them skimping on needed medicine or procedures.
But even highly educated Dutch professionals struggled. People who worked in the insurance industry and had advanced degrees made a good choice about 30 percent of the time. And only about 40 percent of trained statisticians — the group with the best performance — chose good plans for their needs.
In the United States, a working paper has found that many professionals who help people select health