A bill introduced by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) would create a new center to help improve health-literacy skills and coordinate other initiatives to expand healthcare information to the public.
Poor health literacy leads to medical errors, lower quality of care and the loss of billions of dollars each year, said Harkin, who co-chairs the Senate Rural Health Caucus. Our bill works to fix that by ensuring that the 90 million Americans needing assistance are empowered to make better healthcare decisions by expanding access to basic healthcare information.
The health-literacy center would be tasked with gathering and disseminating resources and best practices, according to a summary of the bill. The legislation would also sponsor demonstration projects, coordinate research and set national health-literacy strategies. It would also create resource centers to identify health-literacy challenges in various parts of the country, coordinate public and private efforts to deliver health-literacy services, and provide technical and policy assistance to state and local governments.
Colemans staff estimates the bill would require $50 million in grants over five years, which doesnt include the cost of setting up the health-literacy center. No companion legislation has been introduced in the House.
The bill was endorsed by a number of national healthcare groups, including the AARP, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Physicians Foundation, Americas Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, Families USA, the Institute for Healthcare Advancement, the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy and the National Health Council. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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