Concern Over Health Literacy of New Patients

In the morning sessions of the Forbes Healthcare Summit there was a lot of uncertainty about what the insurance exchanges would bring, but one thing was sure: people are concerned about the health literacy of new consumers.

In the morning sessions of the Forbes Healthcare Summit health reform was, understandably the big topic.

As Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media, put it in his opening remarks, the country stands a very really chance of defaulting next week and it's all because of health care.

Forbes expects, though, that out of the current turmoil and chaos, the country is setting the stage for a new system that will see new innovations and breakthroughs. However, as the health insurance exchanges have only been open for 10 days, a sentiment repeated by most speakers was that "It's too early to tell what is going to happen."

Shubham Singal, leader of Americas Healthcare Systems and Services Practice at McKinsey & Co. presented insight and analysis on the insurance plans listed in the exchanges. According to McKinsey, competition intensity varies greatly across states. While 11 (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin) have 10 or more carriers, the majority of the country falls into the three to six range.

"There will be a fair amount of market disruption as consumers make their choices in these marketplaces," Singal said.

The majority of the 80 new entrants in the market are pricing above the median; however, new commercial entrants are mostly pricing below the median.

Shubham Singal, leader of Americas Healthcare Systems and Services Practice at McKinsey & Co.

, presents the percent of new entrants broken down by type that are pricing above and below the median. The top bar represents the percent above, and the bottom bar represents entrants pricing below. Commercial entrants, second from the right, are the only type where a larger percent is pricing below the median.

"Still a reasonable number of the new entrants are below the median price," Singal said.

During the Obamacare: A Checkup panel, Singal, Robert Robbins, the president and CEO of Texas Medical Center, and Ronald Williams, former chairman and CEO of Aetna and chairman and CEO of RW2 Enterprises LLC, all expressed concerns about how new patients will navigate the complexities of getting insurance.

"People will make bad choices," Williams said, but that everyone does, though. He added that there needs to be more focus on health literacy.

Singal agreed that these new consumers will need aid to when signing up.

"It's evident in calls being handles now that they are four to five times longer than they would have been in the previous market," he said.