Most Americans with health insurance say the health system works for ‘me.’ On the other hand, these same health citizens don’t really understand how their health plans work. As a corollary, they don’t really ‘get’ the fundamental issues of health reform, either.

CIGNA surveyed 1,001 American adults in July 2009 in conjunction with its online educational portal, learn4yourhealth.

The health plan found that:

– 79% of Americans with health insurance say the current system “works for them.”

– Most Americans understand their mortgages, cell phones, cable TV, retirement plans, and car warranties ahead of understand their health plan.

– Most Americans spend under 30 minutes a year reviewing and selecting a health plan.

– 22% of Americans say they haven’t enough time to make good health and cost decisions.

Finally, as the chart illustrates, 40% of Americans say “it stresses them out too much” to think about health care and costs. Nearly 1 in 2 Americans with children at home say it’s too stressful to think about health care and costs, and 70% of Hispanics feel this way.

To punctuate this point, Americans tend to find preparing taxes less onerous than thinking about health care and costs.

9 in 10 of the people surveyed said they had health insurance, 2/3 through their employers.

Only 28% of these people rated themselves high in understanding health reform issues. 27%, about the same proportion of Americans who say they understand health reform well, gave themselves low grades in understanding health reform — a “D” or an “F.”

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Clearly, American rank thinking about health care and health reform about as highly as they would rank getting a tooth pulled.

This certainly doesn’t bode well for the mainstream of U.S. health citizens to fully engage in the current debate on health reform.

CIGNA’s conclusion in its press release of the survey was to work to better and more simply communicate about health plan and, more generally, health issues so enrollees could become more effective health care consumers.

Beyond simplicity, though, I’m certain we also need more engaging and entertaining media and methods for getting people toward greater health literacy and, ultimately, better health citizenship. Earlier this week in Health Populi on September 8, 2009, I asked: “What if Disney, Apple and Nintendo mashed up a health reform plan?” That lens continues to be my response to CIGNA’s findings. That’s why I sang about health reform with Beatles lyrics yesterday, and that’s why I will continue to sing the song about health care communications with an eye toward simplicity, transparency, and accessibility.

Without that level of consumer-friendliness, we’ll continue to relegate health care down to the level of tax prep. (Come to think of it, the two may be closer than we realize…)

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