The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) defines health literacy as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”
Skills in reading, writing, math, communication – even technology – are required to navigate the U.S. healthcare system. Sadly, research shows that U.S. health literacy is low - so low that many Americans (regardless of demographics AND with health insurance!) can't correctly define “basic” terms like a deductible or coinsurance - the very costs they are responsible for paying!
Lower health literacy leads to:
- Poorer health
- Higher rates of hospitalization
- Less use of preventive care services
- More (unnecessary) trips to the emergency room
- Lower medication adherence
In addition, it costs billions of dollars every year and puts undue financial stress on individuals and families.
- Financial stress can impact a person's physical and mental health which, in turn, leads to reduced productivity and absenteeism in the workplace.
- Ultimately, health literacy IS financial literacy.
- If people can be educated and empowered to act on increased financial knowledge - which many employers offer as a perk - then improving their sense of health literacy and awareness should also be emphasized and made available in the workplace.
Employees can improve their health literacy by learning from actual industry "insiders" - medASTUTE!