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Health insurance and the game of Life

Austin Boyland wanted to teach kids about health care, so what did he do? He made a board game about health insurance. The board game is similar to “LIFE.” The players can’t win or lose—much like the real world—but one medical event can make a huge difference in someone’s life, sending them on a completely different path than someone else’s.

The game begins with Covered Cathy and Uninsured Eugene. Each team starts with about $5000, or a substantial amount depending on the age group. The difference between the teams is that Covered Cathy has to pay a $10 coin for her health insurance premium each turn, whereas Uninsured Eugene’s team does not.

There are three different types of spaces on the board: • “Medical Event”: Player draws a card and pays the amount for the medical event. The player either pays the insured amount or the uninsured amount. • “Life Happens”: Player is charged money for something, has to pay taxes, buy kids school supplies, groceries, and/or any additional expenses. • “Good Fortune”: Player gets a reward of some sort such as “Grandma gave you $100,” “Tax refund $1000” or “You win lottery!” This card is so players win some money back and don’t get discouraged.

The goal of the game is for students to get an understanding of how health insurance works surrounding different life circumstances. People learn that like in the real world, experiencing a medical event may mean paying the cost for the rest of their lives. It’s not just a one-time payment.

The game has had a lot of positive feedback. Students love the game because it’s interactive, and it makes them think about why insurance is important while having fun at the same time. Teachers love it because the students are learning a life skill they wouldn’t have normally learned at their age.

But the students are not the only ones learning. Boyland says that respectfully teaching children concepts of health literacy has truly helped him teach adults with low health literacy and those without formal education.

He says that working in the health field is important because no matter what you do, you are impacting someone’s life. Having health insurance is just as important. Boyland currently works as a Certified Application Counselor Specialist at Cox Health and received his Master of Health Administration in 2014 from Missouri State.


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