by Nikolas Wong
April 12, 2018
The inability to understand and use health information can put people’s health at risk. Without adequate literacy skills, America’s most vulnerable populations are more likely to have trouble accessing health services or making the most of their health insurance.
This is a crucial issue health insurance providers hope to overcome as U.S. populations become more diverse.
Low health literacy is an escalating source of health disparities among minorities. Of the nearly 77 million Americans who struggle with health-related reading tasks, 65 percent are minorities, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Similarly, a UConn study found one in five people with private health insurance coverage didn’t understand the word “premium.” It also found that minorities showed greater difficulty understanding and using their health insurance benefits, which worsened when they had limited education and English proficiency.
Health insurance providers want the people and families they serve to understand their health benefits so they can make the best decisions about their care. Better, simpler communication with patients can foster access to necessary health services that help keep communities healthy.
As diversity changes, the demographic landscape of beneficiaries will also change. Cultural competence—the ability to provide care for individuals with different social, cultural, and linguistic needs—is essential to keep Americans healthy and insured. Some health insurance providers have already pushed for greater cultural competence to overcome low literacy. Here’s how:
Low literacy deters minorities from being insured and limits access to medical care. As diversity among Americans continues to grow, so does the need to improve health literacy. Health insurance providers are working hard to overcome the barriers that affect low literacy and are committed to greater cultural competence.