It seems like it was just yesterday when we were in the midst of a national election and speculating if the Affordable Care Act was going to move forward as planned. Fast forward just three months to February and the Final Rule for Essential Health Benefits was issued. Expanded access through Medicaid expansion and Insurer Markets is a reality and open enrollment is approaching fast.
This expanded access will reach populations that haven’t previously had coverage, and the learning curve will be huge. I’ve lived in the healthcare system my entire career and I still find the flow charts explaining access to be a bit of a spaghetti diagram. And that’s just the start—once people determine their eligibility, they will need to make decisions about health plans, navigate enrollment forms, select providers, etc. This is an excellent opportunity not only to provide care, but also to provide education to new members on wellness, prevention and disease management. As the immigrant population will comprise a significant percentage of the newly eligible, providing these materials to consumers with limited English proficiency will be critical to improving the experience, outcomes and ultimately population health.
Health literacy is a big concern in our healthcare system affecting both escalating costs and outcomes. It is particularly prevalent among the elderly, and members of minority or ethnic groups who already face language and cultural barriers. A few things to keep in mind when creating and translating materials are: target 6th-8th grade literacy levels, write clearly in active voice, use short sentences, use clear headings, incorporate cultural nuances for LEP populations, and use graphics to help explain concepts. We also find that Q&A formats work well.
I firmly believe it’s up to all of us to simplify the increasing complexity of the health care system!
Want to learn more about health literacy and how to prepare your health plan for the changing healthcare marketplace? Download and watch our recent webinar, 2012 Health Plan Preparedness.
About the author: Karen Donovan is the VP of Healthcare for VIA. Her background encompasses working with stakeholders across a wide range of the spectrum, providing strategic solutions for health systems, providers, vendors and insurers in today’s ever evolving US healthcare delivery system. Read more from this author