Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Parks’
Next week at the 24th Annual Benefits Forum and Expo in Dallas hosted by Employer Benefit News, I’ll be presenting on a necessary transformation that’s already underway – changing healthcare users into healthcare consumers.
We know that price tags don’t exist when it comes to most healthcare services. So, the average American simply can’t compare prices for prescriptions and other medical and dental services as they can for almost any other good or service. At the grocery store, I’ve been surprised to see costs for common items inching up year-after-year, but it scares me to think that medical costs are skyrocketing at twice the rate of inflation. It’s easy to understand why many Americans are willing to gamble with their health by choosing to avoid costly prescriptions and routine tests simply because spending the money could stretch the monthly budget too thin.
From an employer perspective, Randall Abbott of Towers Watson stated it best: “2012 will be a defining year – employers will head down a path of bold and decisive action.” In any scenario, the expected cost hikes for 2012 are hitting at the worst possible economic time. Uncertainty and low confidence across the corporate spectrum has businesses readjusting their benefit plan offerings, asking employers for higher contributions with less coverage.
To minimize the effect this has on hard-working employees, companies large and small need to communicate the success of consumer-directed healthcare plans coupled with healthcare cost information made available by a variety of vendors. Adding tools and services for employees to understand and act on cost-savings opportunities allows them to ease the sting that higher premiums and deductibles bring.
We know that having these kinds of tools will actually drive selection of and the satisfaction with the CDHP option, saving the employer and employee hundreds of dollars in healthcare expenses annually. Our client experience tells us that the public is hungry for healthcare pricing information, and ready to become smart healthcare consumers.
See you in Dallas!
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the increasing healthcare cost burden shouldered by state and local governments. While the private sector has restructured employee contributions and shifted more toward consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs), a vast majority of the public sector has resisted passing the buck – government employees pay on average 15 percent of premiums with some states requiring no contribution. The Manhattan Institute, a well-known organization dedicated to individual choice and responsibility, estimated that governments could save $1,376 per employee by following the private-business model.
Realizing the power of CDHPs, states like Indiana have begun offering options with lower premiums and empowering employees to take on more responsibility for the cost of care. An astonishing 70 percent of employees moved to these plans, and a study by Mercer Consulting estimated that the state’s move saved Indiana’s taxpayers $23 million. Multiply that savings opportunity nationwide – and there are more than 18 million government employees in the U.S. today – and the overall savings potential is astronomical. A trend toward CDHP is likely to continue given the financial pressure the U.S. is under when it comes to health care. This perspective is certainly validated by the fact that 23 states already offer these types of plans, and a growing number of states are now pushing into the 40+ percent cost sharing category per a 2011 study published by the Segal Company.
What’s exciting is that the potential savings of moving to CDHPs at the government and state level can be enhanced once employees are empowered with the right information to understand how to intelligently shop for their healthcare. The example of an employee like TaKeisha Woodson should and can be replicated across every public-sector employee. As the U.S. Postal Service and other state and local government entities join the heated debate over rising healthcare costs, change is certainly on its way …