Today’s health care climate and an increase in health-related technology have created the perfect environment to help consumerism thrive. Consumerism is the idea that patients advocate for themselves, working to increase their choices, lower their costs and understand their care, writes Russ Britt for MarketWatch.com.
“A survey of 1,000 patients by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute shows consumers plan to do more themselves to bring down costs, are using cheaper means to get health care, seek more transparency in costs, demand more choices and want more privacy while they become more electronically connected to medical networks,” Britt writes.
One cause is an increase in high-deductible health plans, according to Mercer. Another is a huge change in technology, whether it’s the ability to access health care by phone, see and interact with one’s plan online or even use wearable technology to monitor their health and health care, according to the Institute for HealthCare Consumerism.
It’s a trend that’s likely here to stay, Andrea Davis writes for Employee Benefit Adviser’s website. “People are taking on more responsibility for their finances as it relates to their health insurance. We’re seeing a shift toward a lot more financial exposure for consumers,” Davis writes, quoting Ann Mond Johnson, chairman of the board of managers at ConnectedHealth, a private exchange provider. Outside experiences, like shopping or booking travel online, are also encouraging consumers’ behavior as they use a health care exchange. “People want more information; they want better insight into what they’re getting for those dollars,” Davis writes, quoting Johnson.
What does it mean for brokers?
Brokers who want to provide value should be aware of clients’ needs and how private exchanges affect issues important to consumers, such as transparency in pricing. “ (Brokers) are not, in our experience, stuck at all,” Johnson told Davis. “The good ones are very much engaged in providing a great series of understandable choices to consumers.”
Employers stand to benefit, as well. Engaged employees can be healthier employees, writes Natalie Burg for Forbes.com, and the value for all involved can improve. “For example, when an employee chooses to go to the emergency room for non-critical care, employers typically overpay by thousands of dollars or more compared to urgent care, office visits or other suitable treatment options — and often the employee isn’t aware of the cost difference,” Burg writes. “Through innovative new benefits, programs and technologies, employers can educate employees about pricing and quality of care, but they need to find a way to encourage employees to use these resources to make smarter decisions.”