NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Newly insured and uninsured Connecticut residents, particularly members of racial and ethnic minorities, demonstrated low levels of health insurance literacy (HIL) in focus groups, according to a new white paper from FAIR Health, Improving Health Insurance Literacy in the State of Connecticut: Lessons from the FAIR Health Engage Health CT Program.
At a time when more than 700,000 individuals have enrolled in coverage through the Access Health CT insurance marketplace since 2013 as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a great need for Connecticut residents to be able to find and evaluate information about health plans, select the best plan for their needs and use the plan once enrolled—the basic components of HIL. And, amid the current uncertainty surrounding the future of the ACA, this need is even greater. But, the focus groups, which involved African American and Hispanic adults who were newly insured or uninsured, and were conducted in 2016 by FAIR Health and the Hispanic Health Council for FAIR Health's Engage Health CT initiative, showed that the participants faced many challenges with respect to understanding and using health insurance and healthcare successfully.
Moreover, the participants recognized their need for more information. One recently insured man said he knew "nothing" about health insurance and needed to learn "everything." A woman indicated that she needed more information "to be prepared." Similar comments from other participants indicated recognition of the value of acquiring HIL.
Consistency with Survey Findings
The focus group results are consistent with earlier FAIR Health national survey findings in 2016 showing that consumers desire HIL education earlier in life: 76 percent of respondents indicated that an understanding of health insurance plans should be acquired before or during high school or college. Another FAIR Health survey found that African Americans and Hispanics, groups who typically have lower HIL, were more likely than the total population to report using the emergency room for non-emergency care, a practice that can have an adverse impact on care management and healthcare costs.
Barriers to Use of Mobile App
The new FAIR Health white paper highlights obstacles that might limit the effective use of health coverage and of mobile healthcare tools, such as the free mobile app, FH® Cost Lookup CT, which Engage Health CT launched last fall. The app enables Connecticut residents to estimate costs for medical and dental services in their area, and provides state-specific information on health insurance and the healthcare delivery system. One issue is that consumers need more information from healthcare providers. Another factor is a Hispanic cultural trait, personalismo, which emphasizes personal rather than institutional relationships, and might lead consumers to favor personal discussion over the use of mobile tools. On the other hand, the same trait might encourage consumers to use mobile tools to access preliminary information about cost and then follow up by speaking with their healthcare providers. Because the focus groups found that most participants, regardless of race or ethnicity, did not know they could negotiate healthcare prices with their provider, making consumers aware of the possibility of negotiations when introducing them to informative tools could enhance the effectiveness of a HIL program.
The white paper concludes that, even with Connecticut's achievement in enrolling individuals in health insurance, and especially as the ACA's future is called into question, work remains to be done to advance HIL, potentially by such means as developing age-appropriate, standardized curricula; delivering in-person educational content in community-based settings; and coupling in-person educational efforts with mobile and web-based tools.
If you are interested in understanding the level of HIL in your state, contact FAIR Health at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-301-FAIR (3247). Engage Health CT is funded by a grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation.
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About FAIR Health
FAIR Health is a national, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information through data products, consumer resources and health systems research support. FAIR Health uses its database of billions of privately billed medical and dental claims to power an award-winning free consumer website and to create data products serving all healthcare stakeholders, including government officials, researchers, consumers, providers, insurers and other businesses. FAIR Health has been certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as a Qualified Entity, eligible to receive all Medicare claims data for use in nationwide transparency efforts. In addition, FAIR Health's data have been designated as the official data source for a variety of state health programs, including workers' compensation and personal injury protection (PIP) programs, as well as state consumer protection laws governing surprise out-of-network bills and emergency services. For more information, visit www.fairhealth.org.
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SOURCE FAIR Health