New Data Reveals Consumers Still Struggle with Healthcare Literacy

Third annual report from Optavise demonstrates why ongoing health benefits education is critical.

Health benefits education remains to be a healthcare priority based on information from a new Optavise (formerly known as DirectPath) report titled Healthcare Literacy Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

The report highlights the need for greater healthcare literacy education as 62% of respondents stated they don’t always compare costs before receiving care, which could mean they are overpaying for healthcare services. Only 10% of respondents stated they check whether a medical provider or facility is in-network whenever their health plan changes (down from 25% in 2021).

The survey was based on responses from 1,055 US workers with employer-sponsored health insurance.

According to Optavise’s new report, employees are very eager to make smarter healthcare decisions and save money. Other key findings include survey respondents wanting to know how to:

  • Avoid surprise medical bills (39%)
  • Understand how their deductible, copay/coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum (OOPM) work, and how it impacts their wallet (33%)
  • Review an explanation of benefits (EOB) and medical bill for errors (30%)
  • Research healthcare costs and why it matters (29%)
  • Choose a plan and where to get care (22%)

“From inflation to a greater number of Americans facing medical debt, it is critical that consumers have the information they need to make cost-conscious healthcare decisions,” said Kim Buckey, vice president, client services at Optavise, in a release. “While new regulations have gone into effect to help curb surprise medical bills, these regulations alone are often not enough to reduce healthcare spending, especially since hospitals may not be in compliance and consumers generally do not know that these regulations exist.”

To ensure employees receive support they need to increase their healthcare literacy and improve their financial wellness, more employers are partnering with benefits educators and digitizing education, the release said.

According to the Optavise survey, 26% of polled employees say their employers offered presentations and group sessions with benefits educators and outside resources (up from 22% in 2021), and 24% offered one-on-one conversations with these outside resources (up from 16% in 2021). More than half of respondents (53%) said that their company has made online resources available, up from 41% in 2021—likely due to the shift to remote or hybrid workforces.

“It is encouraging that employees want to increase their healthcare literacy rates to improve their financial situations,” added Buckey. “More employers, however, need to rise to the occasion. Employees are demanding more financial wellness support, meaning employers need to offer health benefits education. This is critical for employees to receive accurate, timely and consistent information about how to choose and use their health plans so that they—and the company—are not overspending on healthcare services.”

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