More knowledgeable consumers have greater chance of getting covered

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Uninsured individuals have a greater chance of getting covered if they know more about health insurance and financial issues, suggesting an opportunity to improve insurance uptake through increased health literacy.

A new study, conducted by the RAND Corporation and published in the journal Medical Care, found that among people with high health insurance literacy who were uninsured in 2013, 64 percent had obtained coverage by 2015, compared with 48 percent among those with low health insurance literacy.

A similar pattern held true for those with high financial literacy: 70 percent of those uninsured in 2013 had obtained coverage by 2015, compared to 56 percent of those with low financial literacy.

Katherine Carman

“It is remarkable that the association between financial literacy and people’s insurance decisions is similar in size to things we normally associate as being a key to someone having health insurance, such as education levels and whether someone is employed,” Katherine Carman, senior author of the study and an economist at RAND, said in an announcement.

The findings mean that outreach efforts to enroll the uninsured should take individuals’ health insurance and financial literacy into account, according to the announcement. That’s especially important, Carman added, because the uninsured who have low health insurance literacy are a “particularly vulnerable population” given how much the Affordable Care Act relies on consumer choice.

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About 20 million people have gained coverage since passage of the ACA, the government said, and uninsured rates hit an all-time low of 8.6 percent in September. However, that figure has since risen slightly, and coverage gains show signs of plateauing.

In a bid to simplify consumers’ choices when shopping on the ACA exchanges, federal health officials this year debuted a line of standardized options called “Simple Choice” plans. Insurers, though, have been critical of the concept, saying standardization hampers innovation.

Federal health officials expect a 9 percent gain in ACA marketplace plan signups during the current open enrollment period. So far, more than 1 million people have enrolled in plans on the federal exchange despite uncertainty tied to the likelihood of an ACA repeal in the wake of the elections.