Health Literacy Implications for Health Care Reform - Workshop Summary


Note: Proceedings contain the opinion of the presenters, but do NOT reflect the conclusions of the Health and Medicine Division or the National Academies. Learn more about the differences between Reports and Proceedings.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) extends health care access to 32 million Americans who previously had been uninsured. However, many of the newly eligible individuals who could benefit most from the benefits promised by the ACA, are perhaps least prepared to take advantage of those benefits. Due to low health literacy—the degree to which one can understand and make decisions based on health information—many people may have difficulty understanding what coverage they are eligible for under the ACA; making informed choices about what is best for them and their families; and completing the enrollment process.

On November 10, 2010, the IOM Roundtable on Health Literacy held a workshop to explore opportunities to advance health literacy in association with the implementation of health care reform. Though the legislation offers no regulatory mandates or specific resources for improving health literacy, the ACA does directly mention health literacy and offers opportunities to improve health literacy as part of broader efforts to improve health care. Participants in the workshop examined ways to improve health literacy alongside efforts to expand coverage, provide equitable care, and improve health care quality.