Improving Health Insurance and Financial Literacy
This model seeks to improve health insurance and financial literacy. Health insurance literacy is “a
person's ability to seek, obtain, and understand health insurance plans — and once enrolled, use insurance
to seek appropriate healthcare services.” Only one in three consumers say they understand the meaning of
important health insurance terms. Health insurance literacy is low among many rural residents, and research
large gap between urban and rural residents' ability to evaluate health insurance plans.
Health insurance literacy programs bridge information gaps by helping people understand basic health insurance
information. This can empower people to have more control and make better informed decisions about their
healthcare. Improved understanding of health insurance terms can also increase health insurance enrollment
rates, which improves access to care and, ultimately, health outcomes.
to Care (C2C) initiative was developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help
people understand the importance of health insurance, how to enroll in the right plan, and how to use their
coverage. Some C2C resources are focused on educating consumers, and others are focused on providing education
and resources for community partners who help people enroll in health coverage. Resources are available in
Rural programs can use the C2C
toolkit to help enroll community members in health plans and ensure that they understand their coverage.
The toolkit explains the benefits of health coverage, outlines key questions that consumers should consider when
choosing a plan, and defines important health insurance terms for consumers, such as:
- Out-of-pocket limit
Similarly, approaches that focus on promoting financial and economic literacy can improve financial stability
individuals and their families. This can ultimately increase savings, help people understand and pay for
healthcare costs, and increase quality of life. Knowledge about how families can pay for long-term services and
supports such as nursing home care as people age is particularly limited in much of the U.S. In 2020, the U.S.
Financial Literacy and Education Commission identified guidelines
and best practices for improving financial literacy and education. These guidelines and best practices
can be applied to rural communities. Rural communities can leverage existing assets, such as community social
infrastructure, to facilitate and provide financial education.
For more information about individual
asset-building approaches that can also help improve financial literacy in rural areas, see the Social
Determinants of Health in Rural Communities Toolkit.
Examples of Programs Focused on Improving Financial and Health Insurance Literacy
The Florida Literacy Coalition (FLC) promotes, supports, and advocates for the effective delivery of quality
adult and family literacy services in Florida. FLC partnered with Wells Fargo through the Florida Financial Literacy Initiative to
establish a statewide program that provides financial education to students
in the adult literacy program. Students learn about basic financial skills, such as credit, bank services,
taxes, and managing money. They also gain access to online financial education resources, such as webinars
Colorado is a program that teaches teachers and students in Colorado fundamental economic and
financial decision-making skills important for everyday life. The program provides information, resources,
and tools about personal financial literacy. The program is designed to allow teachers and students to learn
through hands-on experiences.
Insurance Literacy Initiative (HILI), through the University of Maryland Extension and University of
Delaware Cooperative Extension, offers web-based modules about health insurance. The Smart Choice and Smart
Use Health Insurance programs help residents learn about health insurance options as they age and provide
tools to help estimate costs and coverage options. Resources are available in English and Spanish. In
addition, University of Maryland Extension and University of Delaware Cooperative Extension provide an
online health insurance literacy course called Health
Insurance 4 U to help consumers increase confidence and competence to choose an insurance plan.
The goal of Cover Missouri Coalition is to reduce the
number of uninsured in Missouri by improving health insurance literacy. The program shares resources for
health insurance plan decision-making, overall financial help, and understanding insurance costs and
benefits. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.
The ABC for Rural Health program serves
Wisconsin's rural individuals and families. Fact sheets help individuals learn about how to change health
insurance plans, eligibility for healthcare coverage programs, and information about open enrollment
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC) created the Health Extension Regional Offices
(HEROs) program to help local communities build capacity and skills to understand and improve health needs.
HERO agents live in the community they serve and connect residents by providing education on available
health resources. HERO agents work with community members who need health insurance and provide information
to young people on the importance and benefits of enrolling in health insurance. In other communities, HERO
agents educate residents about other important healthcare topics to improve understanding.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Health insurance literacy programs may experience challenges helping community members select and enroll in
health insurance plans due to limited internet availability in rural areas. Programs can seek to involve strong
community leaders and trusted institutions to help spread messages and instill confidence and understanding of
health insurance information. Community
partnerships can help to address limited resources in the community and lack of infrastructure that can
impede financial education initiatives. Programs that have successfully improved financial literacy have
partnered with organizations and funders to access resources, such as education materials, that support program
Rural residents must have the financial means to pay for health insurance, but the affordability of health
insurance continues to be a challenge in rural areas. Rural communities also continue to be targeted by
predatory lending, which diminishes personal wealth.
Resources to Learn More
Insurance Literacy: Resources for Farmers and Farm Families
Offers resources, videos, and information for farmers about health insurance and various health insurance
Organization(s): University of Maryland Extension
Literacy: Theory, Findings and Trends from an Emerging Field
Presentation about various programs that improve health insurance literacy among consumers.
Author(s): Brown, V.
Organization(s): University of Maryland Extension
Health Insurance Marketplace Plan Comparison Activity
Presents a framework of activities and terminology useful for insurance navigators when helping patients
understand health insurance plans and compare the benefits of these plans.
Organization(s): Florida Literacy
Let's Ask 4: Questions for Consumers and
Providers About Health Insurance
Describes four questions for both healthcare providers and consumers that are useful when selecting and
discussing health insurance.
Author(s): Wu, V. Y., Jacobson, K.L., Wong, W.F., et al.
Organization(s): Institute of Medicine