Health Insurance Literacy is an Important Component of Overall Health Literacy
By Amanda Bazzi
Health insurance is a complex and multifaceted contract between insurance companies and policy holders. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that health insurance policies often leave people feeling confused, making it difficult for them to navigate within the healthcare system in a way that ensures their own quality care. A major source of confusion has to do with the question of what medical procedures and care are covered and to what extent if any is it the responsibility of the policy holder to cover costs. Studies have shown that more than half of Americans admit to having a lack of understanding, and even a feeling of being “lost” when it comes to understanding their health insurance.
Consequently, these individuals may not be taking full advantage of their health insurance and everything it has to offer. Without an in-depth understanding of health insurance, the overall health and wellness of individuals will certainly suffer. It is typical for individuals to forego preventative testing due to the fear of potential out of pocket costs. Although annual physicals are fully covered by insurance policies there are many instances where people forgo the visit because they are unaware of this benefit.
It’s easy to see why literacy around health insurance is such an important component in the practice of public health. For this reason, I chose to focus on educating especially marginalized groups in the community on the basic benefits that their health insurance plan must cover as well as some of the most common healthcare expenses i.e., premiums, copays and deductibles.
With my community work at Authority Health as a Schweitzer Fellow I was able to create a comprehensive health insurance brochure that highlighted the main benefits of Medicaid and Medicare health insurance as well as the Affordable Care Act insurance. A brochure is a simple way to increase overall understanding of healthcare insurance policies, providing people with valuable knowledge right at their fingertips.
Health insurance literacy and health literacy in general is achievable if we’re steadfast in continuing to bring awareness around the huge impact it has on the health and wellbeing of people.
Amanda Bazzi is an Albert Schweitzer Fellow at Authority Health and student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.