Health literacy is lacking for individuals with Medigap coverage compared to other elderly populations, new research has found.

Health literacy is whether a patient can obtain, process and understand basic health information in order to manage his or her health. Nurses and community health workers often lead programs that try to increase health literacy with education about medication labels, consent forms or advanced directives. Other approaches can include counseling, tutorials, telephone outreach or medical visits.

Efforts should target sicker, older adults, especially those who are male, less educated and in poorer health with more chronic conditions, according to analysts at Optum, UnitedHealthcare and AARP. 

Those with low health literacy may have reduced cognitive functioning or poor decision-making ability, and are more likely to not exercise, exhibit poor self-care, have more chronic conditions and overall poorer physical health. They also are less likely to receive screenings or other preventative services. 

Results appeared in the July/August issue of Geriatric Nursing