Boost consumer health literacy for reform success

If the federal government and insurers can't boost consumers' health literacy, success in the post-reform industry may be hard to achieve, The Atlantic reported.

Only 35 percent of English-speaking adults throughout the country have basic or below basic health literacy, meaning 77 million people are challenged to understand common health terms.

Since so many new consumers are entering the insurance market through the exchanges and a recent study showed more than 60 percent of the uninsured population doesn't understand fundamental health insurance concepts, as FierceHealthPayer previously reported, many consumers could be making uninformed choices that could actually lead to poorer health and increased costs.

In fact, people with low health literacy already generate healthcare costs of around $100 billion annually, The Atlantic noted.

Although insurers, along with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, have taken steps to help educate consumers about typical health insurance terms, some people need additional assistance.

For example, insurers could reduce the reading level of most written materials as well as educate their customer service employees on effective communication skills, according to The Atlantic. UnitedHealth, for example, is using plain language that promotes health literacy and equity. And recognizing health literacy is a cornerstone for insurers' ability to attract and enroll consumers, America's Health Insurance Plans identified eight common approaches that can help increase health literacy throughout the industry, including determining whether an infrastructure exists to provide clear, easy-to-use information.

To learn more:
- read The Atlantic article