Insurance companies often save documents as PDFs to make them easily reproducible in the same format. However, PDFs are often inaccessible to clients who use assistive technology. Clients who use devices like screen readers or refreshable Braille displays may not be able to access necessary documents to keep their healthcare bills and benefits organized and up to date. With over 25% of the population having some disability, PDF accessibility is vital to the success of your clients, your employees, and your business.
Documents that need to be accessible:
Insurance companies provide their clients with important health and financial information that they need to be able to read and understand.
This can include:
- Statements of Benefits
- Explanations of Benefits
- Billing statements
- Provider lists
- Policy manuals
Which laws apply to PDF accessibility?
Accessibility is necessary to provide the best service for your clients. It is also legally required whether you’re a public or private company. Without making your PDFs accessible, your entire website can be considered inaccessible.
If you receive federal funding through Medicare or Medicaid
If your insurance company provides federally funded services like Medicare or Medicaid, either Section 508 or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to you. Section 508 requires that federal government websites and their digital files be accessible to both employees and the general public. Those websites often include PDFs. Section 504 requires organizations that receive federal funding to be accessible as well. Your documents must be accessible to everyone or you may lose your contracts or funding from government agencies.
If you’re privately funded
If your insurance company does not receive federal funding, it is likely considered a place of public accommodation, which is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to district court rulings, which were upheld by the Supreme Court, your website and all the files it contains need to be accessible to both employees and customers.
What happens if your website isn’t compliant with Section 508 or the ADA?
Your clients and employees- as many as 25% of them- won’t be able to access important healthcare and financial documents without PDF accessibility.“Think about your own daily life and how much you use the internet,” said Chris Danielsen, the Director of Public Relations at the National Federation of the Blind, and a blind person himself. “And then imagine almost every day you encountered something that you literally could not do.”
Inaccessible websites will cost your business a lot of money. Frustrated users might just navigate away from your site and take their business elsewhere, but many may recognize your oversight as an unwillingness to comply with legally mandated standards and file a lawsuit to enforce those laws and protect their rights. If many other clients are also unable to access important documents you might be faced with a class-action ADA lawsuit. Whether there’s one plaintiff or a group, litigation is expensive.
Frustrated website visitors will also seek another insurance company. They may tell their family that your insurance company doesn’t consider their needs. Out of support for their loved one, they may also seek insurance services elsewhere. Once again, you lose money.
In 2014, WellPoint Health Networks, Inc., now called Anthem, faced just such a lawsuit for failing to make their digital resources accessible. Plaintiffs Steven Mendelsohn and Sam Chen are both California residents and members of Anthem Blue Cross, a WellPoint company. They both have visual impairments and were unable to use the company’s inaccessible website. They filed a lawsuit and entered into negotiations. Wellpoint signed an “accessibility settlement agreement” outlining how they would comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Many countries and court systems recognize WCAG as the best set of standards that ensures accessibility when implemented correctly.
Avoiding litigation and reaching every client:
When you begin prioritizing your digital accessibility, make sure all your digital resources are accessible, not only your website. That means video and audio files and PDF documents on your website and sent to customers and employees. PDF accessibility might cover individual documents such as lists of covered supplies, informational brochures about preventative treatments, or booklets of in-network providers, which are quickly and easily remediated in-house with a PDF remediation software such as Equidox.
Other PDFs may include mass-produced form documents with differing information for each client. Those may include statements and explanations of benefits or billing statements. Those high-volume PDFs that are formatted in exactly the same way but with varying data in given fields can be instantly made accessible using a batch processing service like the one offered by Equidox. Equidox can create custom coding just for your batch document to recognize key components on the page and fill in the varying data automatically and instantly.