Newly insured Medicaid beneficiaries need education about how to use their health plan effectively because they're confused about coverage and how to access different types of care, according to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs.
Through an analysis of Oregon's trial Medicaid expansion, the study found new members barely used their insurance to obtain care beyond medical emergencies, including not receiving preventing health screenings or scheduling appointments to address chronic conditions.
"There's this idea that health insurance is like car insurance: You use it when something really bad happens," Heidi Allen, lead author and an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Columbia University, told USA Today.
In particular, the study found 40 percent of 120 new enrollees into Oregon's Medicaid program rarely obtained healthcare because they didn't understand how the insurance worked. Among that group, almost 33 percent said they didn't know how much would they would owe for medical services. Of the 60 percent of new enrollees who were more frequent healthcare users, only about 10 percent sought preventive care, according to the study.
The authors said they believe their findings can apply to other states expanding Medicaid. "This is a good opportunity to socialize people who may not have had healthcare for a really long time about how we want them to use healthcare," Allen told USA Today. "I see an opportunity for us to help patients understand, 'When this happens, this is where we want you to go.'"
The study reinforces calls for the federal government and insurers to increase consumer health literacy. Some insurers have taken steps to educate consumers about basic health insurance concepts, but some people need additional help, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.