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Knowledge, Choices Fuel Consumerism Trend


Higher deductibles and increased cost sharing are starting to push more employees to check the price tag before they schedule physician visits or buy medicines. Without help and resources from employers, though, this consumerism movement might end up in the clearance bin of health insurance fads, experts warn.

“We’d like to see a stronger presence from employers on price transparency,” Anne Weiss, team director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told Human Resource Executive Online. “They’re spending a lot of money on health care and, frankly, not getting much for it.”

The foundation estimates that poor quality care costs an average employer between $1,900 and $2,250 per worker per year. Companies must demand price transparency and more information from insurers and medical providers if they want to see real results from health consumerism, Weiss said.

“Employees need to see the full picture of what they’re paying for,” Weiss said. “Employees may want to know the total cost, but they especially want to know what it’s going to cost them out of pocket, and that takes more intensive interaction between plan and provider.”

Some companies are taking an aggressive stand against rising prices and poor care by encouraging employees to get second opinions, according to a MarketWatch report. Employers are turning to “second-opinion companies” that analyze costs and recommend alternative treatments. While the alternatives are not necessarily cheaper, they typically steer patients away from “big-ticket” procedures such as surgery.

More information and choices are only the first step. Employees need to know how to act on what they learn, and employers have an obligation to step up and deliver that direction, David Marini of ADP told HREO.

“There have to be major communication campaigns — just putting these tools in place will not get organizations to where they need to be,” Marini said. “Someone has to take the responsibility for education, and that responsibility falls on the employer.”