21 Apr Health Illiteracy: The Biggest Health Issue Not Discussed
Health insurance, to put it simply, is not simple. While health insurance can be almost invaluable to many people, there is still a sizable population who do not understand how to acquire or use it. With the attention on health care in the public sphere, the biggest issue might not be access to health insurance but teaching people how to understand it properly.
Studies from the Health Disparities Institute discovers that within the state of Connecticut alone, one out of five users did not understand the word “premium,” and only one out of three could calculate an out-of-pocket cost following an insurance benefit. While these should be common features of a health insurance program, a portion of the country cannot even define the terminology. Unfortunately, this has been a common plague among potential health insurance users for years and it is referred to as health illiteracy. Without a clear understanding of how health insurance is used and explained, people could miss out on the care they really need, if they can even receive it in the first place.
Luckily, there are some actions taking place to improve health literacy to the public. In addition to groups like the Health Disparities Institute, broad organizations like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and specific ones like My Health, My Voice work to spread awareness of the issue and offer solutions. Although health illiteracy remains a problem even in the United States, the solution to it is present and possible.
From many accounts, the best way to improve health literacy is basically simplifying and enhancing models to help explain insurance by medical professionals. In studies, organizations have practiced this in many ways such as by developing user-centered models, using universal approaches to patients both literate or illiterate, targeting specific groups for education, or making organizational changes based on health literacy success. Although each choice uses a different method, they have all been proven to successfully tackle the problem, assisting in understanding health insurance. Since millions require the care that can be provided through health insurance, it’s for the best that there are multiple methods to spread the knowledge to receive it.
Much like literacy in reading or math, the spread of health literacy comes from multiple sources among family, friends, co-workers, the media, and every other source in-between them. Of course, the spread of health literacy also depends on the average person willing to put in the time and effort to learn for their benefit. With more people willing to learn and teach others on the merits of understanding health insurance, we can better communicate on the quality and efficiency of healthcare for everyone.