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Knowledge of health insurance literacy interventions may result in reduced financial burdens for head and neck cancer patients. However, little is known about this topic. Physicians in the Department of Head and Neck-Endocrine Oncology put together a study evaluating the feasibility of screening for health insurance literacy and described the health insurance literacy levels of HNC patients and their caregivers.

In the study, the team administered a survey that assessed demographics, subjective and objective health insurance literacy to HNC patients and their caregivers. Subjective health insurance literacy was measured through the Health Insurance Literacy Measure (score range: 0-84). Objective health insurance literacy was measured through correct answers to a previously developed 10-question knowledge test. Due to a small sample size, inferential statistics were not used; instead, descriptively reported findings.

Forty-eight head and neck cancer patients and 13 caregivers participated in the pilot. The results show about 44.4% of patients and 30.8% of caregivers demonstrated low health insurance literacy (HILM ≤60). On the 10-item knowledge test, patients had an average of 6.8 correct responses and caregivers had 7.8 correct responses. Calculating out-of-pocket costs for out-of-network services was challenging; only 9.5% of patients and 0% of caregivers answered correctly.

Based on the findings, additional strategies may be needed to supplement screening for health insurance literacy. Areas of focus include improving understanding of how to calculate financial responsibility for health care services and filing an appeal for health insurance claim denial.

View the full abstract. 

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