When you receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance company or a bill from your hospital or doctor, do you really understand what it is telling you? Have you read your insurance policy in order to know exactly what your insurance company will and will not cover and when? If you are like most people, you read these documents and have an idea of what they are saying but you don’t fully understand what the documents say.
Take for example one of our recent clients who received a quote from a health insurance company for coverage for her family. The quote was provided to her in a summary format, talking about the main points of coverage: emergency services, in-patient hospital services, outpatient services, physician visits, etc. While the document looked nice, the words used were vague and unfamiliar to our client. There was no glossary provided to help her understand what she was reading. And don’t get us started on the fine print. Our client was getting ready to make a $10,000 annual investment into her family’s health with less than a basic understanding of what everything meant.
It’s not just insurance documents that are hard to understand.. Our client, a relatively young guy, recently had a stroke and was hospitalized for a week. While the family was trying to process this life-changing event, nurses would hand them pamphlets describing the patient’s condition. To the family the pamphlets were just words on a page – not because of the emotional roller coaster going on in their minds, but because the information was written way beyond their level of understanding of clinical terms.
Insurance and medical information are complicated areas and the people who practice in these industries use complex terms to talk to one another and to do their jobs. But they must also talk to us, patients and healthcare consumers, so we can join in the conversation. As part of the health literacy movement, insurers and doctors must translate their language into plain language so we can understand. What is health literacy? More on that in our next blog…