Health care literacy saves $25.4B for Medicare

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It’s no secret that health care spending is increasing every year. How are you working to bend the cost curve for your clients?

There are many ways agents can help bring down costs, beginning with education. UnitedHealth Group conducted a study where health literacy levels were examined across the country. The study considers differences in education, languages, health behaviors, and health systems. The highest health literacy is only 15 and 27 percent of the population, while 36 and 59 percent of the population have very limited health literacy.

It will be no surprise that seniors tend to utilize more health care services, have more chronic conditions, and take more medications than any other age group. Unfortunately, they also have the lowest health literacy levels, resulting in greater risks for poor health outcomes and higher costs.

Opportunities to improve outcomes and achieve savings are abundant. If we improved health literacy levels, the following improvements could be seen:

  • 670,000 (4%) additional Medicare beneficiaries would receive a flu shot every year
  • 993,000 fewer people would visit hospitals each year, including:
    • 93,000 (6%) fewer avoidable hospitalizations
    • 80,000 (5%) fewer hospital readmissions
    • 820,000 (4%) fewer ED visits each year
  • $25.4 billion potential savings for the Medicare program annually

Discussing lower cost alternatives to Urgent care or the emergency room, advising to get a flu or shingles shot, staying in network for treatment and drugs all helps cut down individual costs, and significantly reduce overall costs in the health care industry in general.

Download the health literacy map here.