Medical Insurance

Author David Graser, Yavapai College, Prescott, AZ (


In this project, students compare two health insurance plans of their choosing to find piecewise linear functions corresponding to the plan rules. Students will calculate the amount of medical charges the would need to have in one year for the plans to cost the same in that year.

  • Content Area – College Algebra, Precalculus, Finite Math
  • Time Frame – 4 to 5 weeks with Mini Lectures
  • Published – September 7, 2011
  • Keywords – piecewise functions, linear functions

Project Content

Project Letter (DOC | PDF)

Scaffolding Resources

Definitions (DOC | PDF) This handout contains definitions of various terms you might find in a health insurance plan.

Technology Assignment : Collect and Organize Data (DOC | PDF) In this tech assignment, students learn how to format an Excel worksheet while collecting data about two health insurance plans.

Technology Assignment: Calculate the Total Annual Cost (DOC | PDF) In this tech assignment, students modify the Excel worksheet from the technology assignment above to create a table for each health plan. Upon completion, they will have a table containing several values for total medical charges and the corresponding total annual medical costs.

Technology Assignment: Graph the Total Annual Cost (DOC | PDF) Students use the worksheet above to make graphs the total annual medical costs as a function of the total medical charges for each plan.

Technology Assignment: Find Piecewise Linear Models (DOC | PDF) This tech assignment helps students to combine the graphs for each health plan onto a single graph. In addition, it demonstrates how to find the piecewise linear formulas for each health plan.


  • The website eHealthInsurance offers the ability to find and compare health insurance plans in all US states.
  • Students have had trouble understanding what the entries in the handout for the Technology Assignment: Calculate the Total Annual Cost mean. I wrote a separate handout on Deconstructing the Premier Plan (DOC | PDF) to help students see where each entry comes from. This is an updated version of this handout.
  • I produced a video to help students fill out the table in Technology Assignment: Calculate the Total Annual Cost.

  • If you would like to see a sample technical memo produced by a student for this project, you will need to email the author.
  • I gave a presentation on this project at the Fall 2011 ArizMATYC Conference at Estella Mountain Community College.