Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Health Illiteracy Erodes Foundation for Bush Healthcare Initiatives

A foundational aspect of President Bush’s healthcare plans involves consumers negotiating price with physicians and hospitals based on public quality/cost information. Where the negotiating power of the federal government covering some 80 million persons has failed, the individual consumer will succeed. Never mind that demand already exceeds supply, the President is optimistically leveraging the power of one. Give people good information and they will make good choices. The problem is the average American is not very health literate.

A new report by the National Center for Education Statistics found that most adults have intermediate health literacy. However, intermediate is far from good, because so many health instructions are written in a way that's foreign to how people talk and think, said Dr. Rima Rudd of the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Intermediate skills means that a majority of U.S. adults will have some difficulty using health-related materials with accuracy and consistency," Rudd said. The series of tests had a total of 500 points for a perfect score. Women averaged 248 points. Men averaged 242 points. The study showed that fewer than one in six people are proficient when it comes to health literacy.

The study's message is that health literacy skills are not what they should be. The message for insurers, drug manufacturers and doctors is that they must improve their communication skills if they want to help consumers understand information, Rudd said.

President Bush believes unleashing 3 million high deductible health plan insureds will succeed in controlling costs. As most don’t have funded health savings accounts, there will be negotiations with the clinic’s business office on those unpaid bills when they try to see their doctor.

Bush is growing a brand new industry of health care quality cost information and his friends at the Carlyle Group are in on the ground floor with Multiplan and PHCS. It looks he’ll need to start another one aimed at improving health literacy, that is if he really wants his plans to work? Otherwise it looks like the usual Bush contracting bonanza and government greasing the skids for employers to keep bailing on employee health insurance.

No comments: