Research Roundup: Saving Lives Through Health Literacy

Shefali S. Kulkarni compiled this selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs:

Journal of the American Medical Association: Health Literacy And Outcomes Among Patients With Heart Failure -- This study examines the correlation between health literacy, or the ability to understand basic health information, and the mortality rate among patients with heart failure, which is a condition that "requires self-management and frequent interactions with the health care system." The study found that "low health literacy was associated with a significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality." Researchers noted that link between health literacy and higher death rates supported the effort to address health literacy in patients seeking care (Peterson, et al., 4/27).

The Commonwealth Fund: Realizing Health Reform's Potential: Will The Affordable Care Act Make Health Insurance Affordable? -- This issue brief examines whether subsidies provided for some people under the Affordable Care Act will make health insurance affordable for most low-income families. "The results show that an overwhelming majority of households have room in their budgets for the necessities, health insurance premiums, and moderate levels of out-of-pocket costs established by the Affordable Care Act. Fewer than 10 percent of families above the federal poverty level do not have the resources to pay for premiums and typical out-of-pocket costs, even with the subsidies provided by the health reform law." The researchers note, however, that high out-of-pocket costs could leave some people vulnerable (Gruber and Perry, 4/27).

Bazelon Center For Mental Health Law and The Kaiser Family Foundation: Medicaid Policy Options For Meeting The Needs Of Adults With Mental Illness Under The Affordable Care Act -- This issue brief details a roundtable discussion about the "crucial decisions in effectively designing benefits, service delivery, and outreach and enrollment programs to meet the needs" of adults with mental health disorders who will become eligible for Medicaid services when the new health law expands the coverage to anyone with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Some of the key issues facing adults with mental health disorders include designing specific health benefits to meet their needs, expanding capacity for treatment and targeting outreach and enrollment efforts (Koyangi, Garfield, et al., 4/21). 

The Center for Studying Health System Change and The Kaiser Family Foundation: Physician Willingness and Resources to Serve More Medicaid Patients: Perspectives from Primary Care Physicians -- This study looks at the expected increase of 32 million into the Medicaid system under the new health law and whether that "will intensify competition among patients and
payers for scarce primary care resources." Researchers found that primary care doctors who already are actively serve Medicaid patients would accept more and are generally work in low-income areas in hospitals or community health centers, which are generally convenient for the patients. However, doctors who now do not see Medicaid patients or see only a few "offer less promise" of accepting the new population (Sommers, Paradise and Miller, 4/27).

The Kaiser Family Foundation: Federal Core Requirements And State Options In Medicaid: Current Policies And Key Issues -- This issue brief examines key elements of the Medicaid program and issues relating to the "balance between federal standards and state options." The authors focus on "eligibility, benefits and cost sharing, care delivery and provider payment, long-term services and supports, and dual eligibles" and suggest that the federal-state relationship will have even a greater implications as Medicaid expands under the health law (4/28).

Institute of Medicine and National Research Council: Child And Adolescent Health And Health Care Quality: Measuring What Matters -- This study seeks to evaluate efforts to measure child and adolescent health and quality of services. "The committee concludes that a lack of standardization in key areas—such as race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, primary language spoken at home, and parental English proficiency—limits the ability of those who use data to identify, monitor, and address persistent health and health care quality disparities among children and adolescents." The authors concluded that a measure health and quality "with new emphasis on the social and behavioral determinants of health and monitoring disparities in health and health care quality" is essential (4/25).

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