Plain Language, Graphics and Stories Can Help the Newly Insured Understand their Choices

Faculty; Policy; Public Health

​Effectively communicating information about the Affordable Care Act can be done using plain language, providing comparisons in familiar contexts and using stories, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

The study is one of the first to examine effective ways to explain key insurance terms and details to people who never have had health insurance. It was published online April 3 in the journal Medical Decision Making.

The study’s 343 participants, from urban, suburban and rural areas, did not have health insurance previously or only recently had enrolled. They were shown plain-language tables, graphics and stories about how other people make insurance decisions.

“People found all three methods very helpful,” said senior author Dr. Timothy McBride, professor at the Brown School. “And they’re helpful for people across all levels of health literacy.”

“Much of the insurance information that people receive is confusing, whether they’re enrolling in a plan under the Affordable Care Act or through an employer,” said Dr. Mary Politi, the lead author, an assistant professor of surgery at the School of Medicine. “Anything we can do to ease the enrollment process benefits patients and their families — and simple solutions exist.”

Saint Louis University also participated in the research.

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