Emphasis on Consumerism in Health Care Expected Post 2016 Elections

January 4 | 2017
By: Michael Weiskirch
Principal & Founder, Health Cost Manager, A UBA Certified Solution

I really need to stop spending so much time reading the news. I subscribe to several news aggregators, plus a number of content sources: blogs, industry experts and other publications. I pore through news about politics, world affairs, and information related to HR, benefits, and technology – the field I work in. I sometimes do this (I must admit) while stuck at a stoplight or in line at the store. In all fairness, I do this to keep up on current events and trends impacting my field and my clients’ interests. But I need to stop doing it so much because it can be a huge time waster.

One great example of how I squandered time and energy is with the recent presidential election. I spent way too much time reading polls and political commentary about the projected outcome. Then, in a matter of one day (November 8), the focus shifted. Now, I will try not to hang onto every news cycle, but instead shift my focus to the future. As we have learned, it’s too hard to predict a political outcome. In HR and benefits, we have seen this play out over the last several weeks with the pending doom around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). While you can certainly point to new health care legislation, or partial repeal being introduced in early 2017, the result could be something no one has anticipated once the political process is formally played out.

What I do expect post ACA repeal/replace is a shift in focus within HR departments to an initiative that began well before “Obamacare” was introduced – consumerism in health care – which is the concept of empowering employees, families and individuals to direct consumption of care. This movement was spawned by the cost shifting onto individuals and how the Web influenced the purchase of other goods and services. Per the UBA Health Plan Survey, 26.4 percent of all U.S. employees are now enrolled in consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs), an increase of 21.7 percent from last year and nearly 70 percent from five years ago. Recent talk in the future administration is around supporting health savings account (HSA) plans; increasing contribution amounts and one-time tax credits, and possibly broadening eligibility. A simple shift such as this could truly move the needle on these plans.

In response to CDHPs and consumerism, employers, employees and covered individuals will look to technology tools to choose the right plan, budget, assess quality of care, and reduce their overall exposure and much more. These tools and resources come from various places, including insurance carriers, benefits administration and marketplace solutions and third-party applications. As engagement increases, consumers can positively influence their health and financial situation and reduce the impact of overall cost. It can also make their lives more productive. For example, being able to locate, close to home, the lowest cost/highest quality procedure or lowest priced prescription can go a long way in helping employees save money and time.

While these concepts are compelling in theory, the key to their success will be in how they are delivered to the consumer and the communication and training behind them. As the dust settles around the ACA debate and employers start to refocus their efforts on supporting employees’ needs around optimizing the selection and utilization of their health plan, there will be more to come.

For information on CDHP and HSA trends by region, industry and group size, download UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary, a free publication detailing all the comprehensive survey findings.

©Copyright 2017 by Michael Weiskirch at Health Cost Manager, A UBA Certified Solution. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

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