Dr. Kavita Patel was unable to attend the conference in person due to health problems, but joined the conference by Skype. She talked about problems with healthcare in the U.S. and how “one of the most common myths… is that the U.S. has the best healthcare in the world.” This may be true for some Americans, but compared to other countries, we are not getting good value for our healthcare dollars, she said. That’s why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is so significant, but sometimes that gets lost in all the discussion about enrollment.
The ACA is bringing sweeping changes to all sectors of healthcare, impacting hospitals, makers of medical devices, health insurance companies, and employers. Although some aspects of the ACA have been delayed, like the employer mandate and applicant verification, many of these changes have already come to pass:
- Expanded access to coverage by building on the existing healthcare system
- More competitive and transparent healthcare markets
- Reformed the health insurance market and hold insurers accountable
- Simplified healthcare administration and reduction in waste, fraud, and abuse
- Improved quality and delivery systems to lower costs
- Focus on prevention and wellness
Dr. Patel talked about polling on the ACA. She noted that while many Americans don’t like “Obamacare,” some specific ACA provisions are very popular — such as getting rid of preexisting conditions and keeping 26-year-olds on their parents’ health insurance. “So there are some messaging problems,” she said.
She discussed how health literacy intersects with the ACA. She listed the Institute of Medicine’s attributes of a health literate organization and laid out a health literacy agenda. Dr. Patel illustrated how low health literacy is costly in both human and financial terms. “You can make a business case, a patient case, and a provider case for health literacy,” Dr. Patel said.
Dr. Patel listed questions every consumer and provider should ask about health insurance. They are based on a project called Let’s Ask 4: What are my choices for health insurance?, How do I get it?, How do I use it?, How much will it cost me? Dr. Patel closed with examples of health literate consumer guides.