Posts Tagged ‘healthcare reform’

New Year, New Deductible: 5 Ways to Help Your Employees Save on Healthcare in 2013

Doug GhertnerPresident and CEO

Doug Ghertner
President and CEO

The start of the New Year brings a new deductible for your employees. You can help them manage this expense by sharing these five opportunities to save on healthcare in 2013.

  1. Understand Your Benefits: Even if your employees stayed with the same plan this year, they should take time to learn about any changes that may have been made to it. Co-pays, co-insurance and networks may have changed. A physician or specialist who was in-network in 2012 may no longer be this year. By reviewing and understanding their benefits, your employees will be better positioned to take advantage of the programs you’ve made available to them and maximize their savings throughout the year.
  2. Shop Around: Costs for common medical procedures can vary by as much as 755 percent, even in the same zip code! So it pays to shop around. Encourage your employees to consider driving a few miles farther to save on imaging scans or tests. Or, if they utilize maintenance medications to treat one or more chronic conditions, they may find savings by purchasing those prescriptions via mail order. Additionally, generic medications can provide significant savings over the brand alternative; some pharmacies even offer certain generic medications for free.
  3. Take Advantage of Free Preventive Services:  With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many plans offer common preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost to the beneficiary. Blood pressure and diabetes tests, mammograms and colonoscopies, and immunizations for children are among the services covered. Your employees can save money now on out-of-pocket costs, and they’ll have the opportunity to save money down the road through better prevention and early screening.
  4. Be Proactive in Asking for a Lower-Cost Service or Treatment: Encourage your employees to always ask their physicians if a generic drug is an option for them. Similarly, if they are referred to a higher-cost specialist, they should ask if a lower-cost one can provide the same quality treatment. Often, physicians refer their patients to specialists they know, without understanding differences in cost. Your employees should never be afraid to ask for a new referral if they can obtain quality care at a lower cost.
  5. Stay Alert to Savings: As the year unfolds, remind your employees to always be on the lookout for new savings opportunities. Their “go-to” pharmacy may be the best deal now, but if they need a new prescription, they may find a better price elsewhere. If your plan offers a cost transparency tool, encourage your employees to use it regularly to shop for their family’s care, and make it a habit.

By becoming proactive healthcare consumers, your employees can make value-based purchasing decisions that are good for their health and their budget. This, in turn, supports your efforts to drive down healthcare costs and boost employee productivity.

Happy New Year!

Saving the Affordable Care Act

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he redefined the President’s national healthcare program – ACA, the Affordable Care Act – into something that could actually be both workable and cost-effective, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was onto something.

Along with 20 other sitting US governors – including Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam – Governor Daniels challenged HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to redefine and restructure this new law. Rather than just saying no, Daniels – on behalf of his fellow governors – detailed a series of six changes that will be needed to make the ACA work for America. What caught my eye – and one that I felt was key:

  • The law’s provisions discriminating against consumer-driven plans, such as health savings accounts, (would be) waived.

In short, these Governors, representing states with 115 million Americans, have endorsed the same consumer-driven approach to healthcare that other companies, and our own, have been advocating.  We know and believe that given the choice, the motivation and the right pricing information, Americans can – and will – lower their own healthcare costs.

Governor Daniels said that consumer choice – and the motivation provided by health savings accounts and other programs giving patients a stake in seeking out the most cost-effective care – will drive costs down.  And he’s right on target.

Americans are world-class shoppers.  When given the motivation to price-shop and the transparent pricing information needed to make informed decisions, they will invariably make cost-effective choices.  I know this from experience.  It’s the value we deliver to employees across American as we deliver very specific, actionable, healthcare product and service pricing information on a very local basis.

For instance, through our client Thompson Machinery – a seven-year veteran of Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDHP) advocated by Governor Daniels – we’ve been able to generate annualized savings of at least $200 per employee, with some achieving savings of from $800 to $1,000 per employee.  Imagine if the 115 million Americans represented by these 21 Governors were to achieve those kinds of savings?  In round numbers, we’re talking about $23 billion dollars per year in real-world, provable savings.

Here’s the bottom line – with a series of fiscally-sound adjustments to the ACA (such as those advocated by Governor Daniels), and accurate and local pricing information, the American people can make the ACA work for themselves, and for our country.  Savings will not be realized by bureaucratic mandate, by Congressional law or by court rulings.  Instead, savings will be realized when individual patients – transformed into informed and price-conscious consumers and provided with the pricing data they need – make individual buying decisions based on both quality and price.

I applaud Governor Daniels. With leaders like him and his 20 fellow governors, what we have done with more than 100,000 American consumers can just as easily be done by 100 million Americans.

Vanderbilt Healthcare Professor Sounds Off

People tell me that I’m pretty passionate about healthcare – I can get fired up on the topic of cost transparency at the drop of a hat. I never thought anyone would match my enthusiasm on this subject … until I met Dr. Larry Van Horn.

As an Associate Professor of Healthcare Management at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, Dr. Van Horn has lots of opportunities to sound off on the issue of healthcare cost transparency and what it means to patients and businesses alike. So we were thrilled when Employee Benefits Adviser captured some of his best arguments in a recent podcast.

During his talk with Editor John Ortman, Dr. Van Horn addresses the need for transparency in order to create smarter healthcare consumers and ultimately, a sustainable healthcare system. He also digs into the data in change:healthcare’s Healthcare Transparency Index (HCTI) and the need for cost transparency today, as consumers are being forced to take more accountability for their healthcare purchasing decisions.

Have a listen and sound off with  your own thoughts below.