CHCS - Center for Health Care Strategies

Improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of publicly financed health care

Health Literacy Implications of the Affordable Care Act

Stephen A. Somers, PhD, and Roopa Mahadevan, MA
November 2010
Institute of Medicine

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not focus explicitly on health literacy, the law's success arguably calls for a redoubling of national efforts to address the issue. Nearly 36 percent of America's adult population is considered functionally illiterate, with rates of low literacy found disproportionately among lower-income Americans eligible for publicly financed care through Medicaid.

In this report, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) identifies provisions in the ACA that directly and/or indirectly address health literacy. Findings herein can inform efforts to implement related enrollment, care delivery, and public health strategies that support and respond to health literacy levels in the expansion population.

CHCS President Stephen A. Somers and Program Associate Roopa Mahadevan presented this report at a November 2010 Institute of Medicine workshop on the topic of health literacy and health care reform.  For more information and additional resources, visit:

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