The latest briefing from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that nearly 35 percent, or more than 77 million American adults, have only basic or below-basic health literacy. As a result, reports The Atlantic, many in the medical field are concerned that people enrolling in health insurance plans under the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be unable to make informed decisions.

Health literacy is defined as someone’s ability to obtain, process and understand health information with sufficient confidence to take charge of his or her medical care. Studies show that people with low health literacy tend to have poorer health outcomes and therefore generate increased costs and stresses in the health care system.

Today, most people with low health literacy in the United States are those who have just become eligible for new insurance options for the first time. Many of these folks have low socioeconomic status and education, have disabilities, are from non-white racial and ethnic groups, or may be elderly.

Experts predict that, in general, many people with insufficient health literacy will need help figuring out how to compare insurance options and how to navigate basic terms such as “premiums” and “deductibles.” In addition, others will need help checking that their current doctors will be covered under their new plans.

Although resources such as videos, telephone help lines, tip sheets and local organizations are available to help people navigate the new health care system, some question whether this will be enough. What’s more, the deadline for health insurance enrollment is quickly approaching, with most applications due on March 31, 2014.

“Good health literacy is achieved when people’s abilities and preferences are well-matched with the demands and resources of the systems they are navigating,” said Sofia F. Garcia, the journalist who wrote The Atlantic report. “Failing to prioritize it will cost us dearly.”

For more information on navigating the ACA and its features, click here.