September 29, 2006
You say you want a revolution (part 1 of 3): transparency is the name of the game
Make no mistake about it; consumer-driven healthcare (CDHC) is a revolution in the making. There is an ongoing rebellion against the state of our healthcare system the costs, the bureaucracy, the barriers to insurance coverage. To put it plainly, we’re over it.
And as the various stakeholders explore the landscape for solutions we are finding more and more frequently that consumer-driven tools like high deductible health plans and HSAs are coming to the forefront as a solution that resolves the concerns of all parties involved. For employers, it means significant overall plan savings without having to cut benefits or participants. For individual participants, these plans bring more choice and control about your healthcare as well as a variety of tax advantaged savings opportunities. And for healthcare providers, it means a return to the simpler days of performing a service for a fee and getting paid in cash without having to deal with paperwork required by an insurance company or waiting for payment.
It is easy for us to focus on “what’s in it for me” as this revolution gains momentum, but to do so would be to ignore a powerful force at work in our economy. While we gain supporters for the revolution based on the immediate-term gains from a personal perspective, we win the war on healthcare by compounding the forces that shape the healthcare system for the future. The true beauty of CDHC is that it is not only good for the various players in the short term, but it is also providing momentum for positive changes in the entire healthcare system for the long term.
Every revolution involves a little regrettable bloodshed, the pain that comes before healing can truly begin. The first element of the CDHC revolution that generally elicits an “ouch!” is when we as consumers are reconnected with the true cost of healthcare.
For longer than we may care to acknowledge, every layer of our healthcare bureaucracy has pushed us a little further away from a personal understanding of the true cost of medical services. The result is that we rarely have any basis for making a decision about which treatment we really need and which might be more of a nice-to-have.
There’s no question that as a consumer it is not fun to learn that the true cost of a visit to the doctor is $80, rather than the $20 we pay as a co-payment. But whether it is fun or not, has no bearing on the actual cost, and we are paying that cost one way or another. Frankly, I’d rather just pay the $80 than deal with the long-term consequences of myself or my co-workers losing benefits altogether, or in some cases, losing a job because the employer is trying to juggle the expenses and there just isn’t enough money to cover it all.
The reality is that we can’t adequately address the problem of how to pay for the true costs of healthcare until we cut through our illusions, come at it honestly, and take some responsibility for the choices at hand.
Transparency of these true costs is the first step toward long-term solutions and we, as consumers, should demand that transparency. With transparency, we can make our own value-based judgment calls about the healthcare our family receives and negotiate accordingly. Without transparency, we are subject to the bureaucracy-driven judgment calls of others — dependent on other people to weigh the options and the costs and benefits and make the determination about what healthcare we ought to receive and for how much.
Maybe I’m just an ornery cuss, but I want the opportunity to make those choices myself, and I think Americans will, by and large, agree with me when the revolution comes knocking. To get there, we have to understand that transparency is a significant stepping stone for healing our healthcare system.
This is the first of a three part series of articles on the larger impacts of the consumer-driven healthcare revolution. Reprinted with permission from www.consumerdrivenguy.com. For more information, contact Mike Turney at 614/326.4875 or firstname.lastname@example.org. HRH is the endorsed insurance agency of the Columbus Bar since 1989.