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Health Insurance You Can Understand

Northwestern teams with new company to make health insurance less confusing

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October 1, 2013 | by Erin White
CHICAGO --- When the federal health insurance marketplace opens Oct. 1 expect one new Illinois company to offer easier-to-understand health insurance information thanks to a partnership with a team of Northwestern Medicine® experts.

Land of Lincoln Health™, a co-op health insurance company that began enrolling members Oct. 1, has partnered with the health literacy and learning program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to explain its health insurance information in simple terms.

Northwestern is one of the only institutions in the country with a program that links the fields of medicine and education to help people more effectively learn about their health and health care. The Northwestern team is developing spoken, print and multimedia health communications for Land of Lincoln Health.

“In general, our health care system is confusing -- but there are few things that are more poorly understood than health insurance,” said Michael Wolf, director of the health literacy and learning program and a professor of medicine at Feinberg. “We partnered with Land of Lincoln Health to make it easier for its members to access and use the many health care services to which they are entitled to through their health insurance.”

Several key aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) go into effect in 2014, highly impacting the world of health insurance. As of Jan. 1, 2014 all Americans will be required to have basic coverage or will face tax penalties. To facilitate enrollment, the ACA has set up each state to have a “Health Insurance Marketplace” where its residents can shop for plans and apply for subsidies to offset monthly costs.

The ACA also provided loans to create new non-profit consumer-oriented and operated plans (co-ops) nationwide with the goal of increasing competition in the industry and focusing attention on the needs of the consumer. Land of Lincoln Health, one such co-op, is the only insurance company of its kind in Illinois and will be governed solely by the people it insures. Any extra revenue will be used to improve coverage, control premiums and expand benefits.

The company sought out the expertise of Northwestern’s team to be sure that it was using best practices in their education and ongoing communication with prospective and new members.

“Land of Lincoln Health offers health insurance the way it should be -- easy to understand, easy to buy and easy to use,” said Daniel Yunker, CEO of Land of Lincoln Health. “Northwestern has worked with us every step of the way in helping us provide information that is simple to understand for the people of Illinois.”

“Working with Land of Lincoln Health poses such an excellent opportunity because we don’t have to rework an existing system; we are starting with a clean slate and a company that is very welcoming of our input,” said Laurie Hedlund, project manager of Northwestern’s health literacy and learning program. “We’ll be helping the Land of Lincoln Health team over time deconstruct all the complexity inherent to a health plan, making sure its members understand how much their health care costs and what services are available to them.”

As part of this process, Northwestern will be gathering constant feedback from a consumer advisory board, a group of people with wide ranging health literacy and familiarity with insurance, to make sure Land of Lincoln Health is on target.

“With Land of Lincoln Health, there is an unprecedented opportunity to help Illinois residents make sense of health care, costs and all,” Wolf said. “Hopefully this will serve as a role model for the health insurance industry at large.”
Topics: Research