Most Americans struggle with low health literacy despite health plans and provider efforts to increase education efforts, according to a new UnitedHealthcare survey.
The UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey showed that only 9% of Americans surveyed “showed an understanding” of four basic health insurance terms — health plan premium, health plan deductible, out-of-pocket maximum and co-insurance. That’s two percentage points better than a year ago.
The survey also found that more people use the internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for healthcare services. The survey reported that 32% (44% of millennials) said they used those services to comparison shop, which is a 230% increase from five years ago.
The UnitedHealthcare landline and cellphone survey of 1,006 Americans found that health literacy remains an issue. About two-thirds of Americans understand the terms “health plan premium” and “health plan deductible,” but less than half know the definitions of “out-of-pocket maximum” and “co-insurance.” Only 9% know all four terms. That's a problem when health plan members are supposed to comparison shop for providers and services.
Creating better healthcare consumers is seen as a way to contain healthcare costs, but before patients can request cost data, they need to understand health insurance terms. Otherwise, health costs information is useless. The findings show the healthcare industry still has work to do to create better healthcare consumers.
Another area that needs work is telehealth promotion. A majority of respondents said they are unlikely to use telehealth services to access healthcare services.The results are better than last year.
UnitedHealthcare said the 46% unlikely-42% likely split is a five percentage point improvement than a year ago. Telemedicine is seen as a way to improve access to healthcare, resolve potential physician shortages and reduce healthcare costs, but still, a majority of respondents are unsure. The survey’s telehealth numbers improved this year. However, the survey shows healthcare organizations still have work to do to promote the benefits of telemedicine.
The survey also asked questions about Medicare Advantage (MA). The survey found MA members widely love the program. A whopping 92% of MA enrollees said they were satisfied with their health plan, which is good news for payers like UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare is the largest MA payer with about one-quarter of MA enrollees and some large payers have increasingly looked to the MA market as a better alternative to the Affordable Care Act exchanges.