Measure Consumers’ Health Insurance Literacy

A Project to Measure Consumers’ Health Insurance Literacy

You can become involved!

We’d like to engage a diverse group of stakeholders in our effort to create a robust measure of consumers’ health insurance literacy. There are lots of ways to participate. Contact HIL_project (at)cu.consumer.org to join our list-serv or to participate in the research effort.

Consumers struggle to understand and use health insurance. These health insurance difficulties take a toll on consumers’ health and financial well-being, and have cost implications for health plans and the nation.

This project aims to develop a precise language for describing what is difficult for consumers about health insurance. By developing a “common language” — in the form of a widely-accepted health insurance literacy measure—we can bring precision to research efforts and policy discussions.
Project Progress:On November 14th, 2011, an expert panel discussion provided the foundation and overarching structure for the project. Read the meeting synopsis here. This report includes an initial working definition of health insurance literacy:

Health insurance literacy measures the degree to which individuals have the knowledge, ability, and confidence to find and evaluate information about health plans, select the best plan for their own (or their family’s) financial and health circumstances, and use the plan once enrolled.

The report also includes a project timeline, results from a literature review and other foundational information.
Project Sponsors:This project is sponsored by Consumers Union, the University of Maryland and American Institutes for Research. Additional partners are welcome.
A note about health literacy: Health insurance literacy is different from the health literacy. The field of health literacy, while quite robust in other ways, does not precisely measure consumers’ ability to understand and use health insurance. Moreover, a comprehensive survey of health literacy research reveals not one study that investigates consumers’ ability to understand and use health insurance.