Many employees find themselves in a maze of confusion when it comes to deciphering health insurance coverage. It's a common challenge that affects individuals across the spectrum of industries and backgrounds. The ability to understand the healthcare landscape, otherwise known as health literacy, determines the ability to make informed health decisions.
Health literacy impacts all facets of our lives, from physical health and psychological well-being to workplace productivity and, ultimately, business success. New movements are paving the way for employers to bring a cohesive approach to health literacy through their insurance coverage, for example, the work of the nonprofit Health Literacy Texas. But a health plan that bolsters health literacy isn’t just health insurance Texas employees deserve, but every employee nationwide.
The best health insurance companies know where to look for gaps in knowledge and support members through built-in health literacy programs. October is Health Literacy Month, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by exploring the importance of employee health literacy and the ways you and your company’s health plan can enhance personal and organizational well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two types of health literacy: personal and organizational.
Personal health literacy is “the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.” From finding an in-network physician to understanding common healthcare terms to paying medical bills, personal health literacy is useful every step in the healthcare process.
But health literacy doesn’t stop at the individual level. Organizational health literacy is “the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.” This type of health literacy is intertwined with health equity, wherein every employee has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Employers can view boosting organizational health literacy as an asset for corporate social responsibility. But that social lens also improves the business bottom line. Promoting a positive culture of health in the workplace results in higher productivity, improves retention, and even encourages the development of individual resilience among employees.
When employees know where to turn for the care they need, everyone benefits.
Recently, Curative conducted a national study of US employees to understand the experiences of people who have employer-based health insurance and evaluate how the existing cost-sharing arrangements affect the use of healthcare services, overall health, and well-being.
Our report unveiled significant challenges employees confront today in navigating their health insurance. Four in 10 (44%) insured Americans surveyed reported facing difficulties when it comes to understanding their insurance coverage. Many of those who struggle to understand their coverage also said their out-of-pocket costs are expensive (24%) or more than they can afford (14%).
This lack of understanding combined with affordability issues can result in delays in accessing care services, which can cause ripple effects on personal well-being and job performance. Two-thirds (66%) of those who are confused about their coverage delayed care in the past year, 41% skipped preventive care services, and 33% did not take prescribed medication. Furthermore, nearly half (49%) of those who struggle to understand their coverage expressed the need for healthcare but have been unable to receive it within the past three months.
This subset of surveyed Americans who find understanding their coverage difficult tends to call out sick more often from work, with a substantial 74% doing so, compared to 52% of others who don't face the same difficulties.
Americans need help improving their health literacy to get the care they need, and the best health insurance companies have a plan that does just that.
An employee’s health literacy level directly affects physical well-being. While employees with high health literacy skills are most likely to make informed health decisions, those with lower health literacy face:
Poor health outcomes, such as increased hospital stays and emergency room visits
Trouble managing chronic illnesses
Delayed or forgone preventive care services
This confusion and misunderstanding also results in increased medical costs. Employees may accidentally choose an out-of-network provider for care without realizing it, or overpay for prescription drugs. Oftentimes, employees delay or forgo preventive care services altogether, which could lead to worse health outcomes over time that are more expensive to treat. Employers feel the cost burden too; an employee with low health literacy may cost the health plan $13,000 compared to $3,000 for someone with higher health literacy, ultimately impacting long-term costs for the employer.
However, health literacy goes far beyond physical health. When an employee feels physically unwell and experiences stress over looming medical costs, they also experience psychological effects, which causes poor mental health. Mental illness is the second most common reason for work absences, influencing employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention. Employees are then caught in a vicious cycle of poor physical health exacerbating mental health while skipping vital care services over fear of falling further into debt.
The physical and psychological well-being of employees are key factors to healthy and successful organizations. Employers who promote organizational health literacy simultaneously improve personal health literacy, empowering employees to take control of their health journeys and feel confident seeking the care they need, when they need it. Several studies point to the positive associations between health-oriented workplace leadership and the psychological well-being of employees, leading to improved individual skills, fewer occupational hazards and injuries, and greater work capability.
As an employer, there are steps you can take to strengthen health literacy at your organization and set your employees up for success. While you may know your health plan inside and out, your employees most likely need some help:
Routinely provide information – Hosting live Q&A sessions, providing easy-to-read factsheets, and bringing in a health plan representative to talk with employees are helpful ways to keep the communication flowing.
Direct employees to a learning hub – From their online membership portal to company-provided resources, always let employees know where to find more information about their health plan.
Offer personalized support – By establishing channels for employees to seek personalized guidance or assistance with their health plan questions, you’ll be able to regularly monitor health literacy at your organization. Whether through HR representatives, benefits counselors, or digital platforms, make it easy for your employees to get the help they need.
The best health insurance companies understand that strengthening health literacy is an ongoing process that members shouldn’t face alone. That’s why Curative equips employers with health literacy campaigns to ensure employees get a regular feed of information on how to best use their benefits. That’s in addition to all of the direct-to-member education. From the moment an employee becomes a member of Curative, employees can sign up for their free Baseline Visit, where they meet their designated Care Navigator. Members know their Care Navigator by name and can text, call, and email them for help and guidance throughout their health journey with Curative’s health plan.
Care Navigators work with your employees to navigate their health journeys and focus on improving health literacy at every step of the process, including providing language support. Whether a member wants to meet with a primary care physician or learn about nutrition programs with Curative, Care Navigators are ready to help. Our Care Navigators, and our dedication to building health literacy for all members, are what make us one of the best health insurance companies across the nation.
Curative wants your employees to love using their health benefits. As one of the best health insurance companies, our health plan seamlessly delivers better health through affordability, engagement, and simplicity. Your employees never have to wonder what’s covered under our plan and will feel confident using their benefits.
No copays. No deductibles. No...really. Surprise medical bills are a thing of the past. Curative is changing the way we view health insurance.
**In order to qualify, members must complete a Baseline Visit within the first 120 days of the plan effective date.
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