Forum: 'Driver's Ed' Needed for Understanding Health Insurance

By Gelburd, Robin | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), January 29, 2017 | Go to article overview

Forum: 'Driver's Ed' Needed for Understanding Health Insurance


Gelburd, Robin, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


Before receiving a driver's license, those who undergo this rite of passage must first receive driver's education that prepares them for the challenges of the road. Yet there is no similar educational prerequisite that prepares healthcare consumers for using health coverage before receiving their health insurance ID cards. Just as an uneducated driver is more likely to be involved in a mishap on the road, a healthcare consumer who does not understand health insurance is at greater risk for adverse financial and/or clinical consequences when navigating the complex and evolving healthcare landscape.

An uninformed consumer may receive an unexpected bill after unwittingly seeking care from an out-of-network physician, for example, or neglect to establish a relationship with a primary care physician, who typically plays a critical role in patient care coordination and prevention. A new white paper by FAIR Health entitled, Improving Health Insurance Literacy in the State of Connecticut: Lessons from the FAIR Health Engage Health CT Program, offers a view into the widespread lack of health insurance literacy (HIL) -- a basic understanding of how to shop for, select and use a health plan -- among healthcare consumers.

Connecticut has had substantial success in insuring its residents, with more than 700,000 individuals enrolled through the Access Health CT health insurance marketplace since 2013 as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

But, as reported in the white paper, focus groups conducted by FAIR Health and the Hispanic Health Council in connection with FAIR Health's Engage Health CT initiative, which was funded by a generous grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation, showed that the newly insured and uninsured, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, had low levels of HIL. Unprepared to use health insurance and healthcare effectively, the focus group participants recognized their need for more information. One recently insured man said he knew "nothing" about health insurance and needed to learn "everything."

The focus group results are consistent with national survey findings in 2016 that showed 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 national survey found that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely than the total population to use the emergency room (ER) for non-emergency care. …

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Forum: 'Driver's Ed' Needed for Understanding Health Insurance
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