For most of the past year, insurers and health officials have been dedicated to ensuring individuals enroll in healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act. Until the next open enrollment period begins, they are focusing on improving the health literacy of consumers, reports Kaiser Health News.
Many individuals struggle to understand industry jargon, such as deductibles, copays and premiums. "I have an education and I am not understanding this," Deb Emerson from Oroville, California, told KHN. "I wonder about people who don't have an education--how baffling this must be for them."
People who have low levels of health literacy are more likely to be hospitalized and use costly emergency rooms--only one in 10 people has an adequate level of health literacy, according to the U.S. Department of Education, notes KHN.
For example, 67 percent of individuals don't understand the meaning of coinsurance, according to a survey from the Washington University School of Medicine, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The survey questioned 51 low-income, uninsured adults before ACA enrollment opened last October.
Without health literacy, healthcare reform success may be difficult to achieve, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.
To better educate their new consumers, many insurers are taking more personalized measures to ensure members understand insurance terms. Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross created "Health Care and You," an online dictionary that clearly defines industry lingo, notes the Inquirer.
The insurer uses methods like real-life examples to better explain terminology. "We take people through an actual episode of care and show them what it means to get a referral, how to use a tier-one provider, and how to have a conversation with a doctor," said Paula Sunshine, vice president for consumer affairs at IBC.
Insurers across the country are implementing tools to address the problem, such as offering workshops, holding webinars and sending out welcome kits that include clear and simple language, notes KHN. For example, Minneapolis-based UnitedHealthcare developed a "Happiness Counts" kit that informs seniors--via postcards, journals and other information--on how to best manage and take care of their health.