More and more Americans are paying for healthcare out of pocket due to either having a high deductible healthcare plan or having no insurance coverage at all. In many cases, consumers are now paying the bill.
Since the evolution of the internet, the “information highway”, people are becoming more sophisticated consumers by price shopping and finding the best quality at the lowest price. We are seeing that this is also holding true for healthcare.
This consumer scrutiny of cost and quality is forcing accountability of healthcare providers, and this is a good thing. In fact, this is the core of Healthcare Reform- establishing accountability for providers to deliver their service with higher quality and at a lower cost.
For the first time, healthcare organizations, big and small, are developing systems and processes to monitor the costs of their services, the patient’s perception of their experience, and objective outcomes of treatment. Once the healthcare provider collects this data, they need to compare it against the competition to be certain they compare favorably with other healthcare providers because they can be certain the consumers will be making those comparisons.
This process of accountability and transparency of sharing information about the cost and quality of the service healthcare professionals provide will drive competition which ultimately drives lower price and higher quality. Competition in healthcare is a win-win for all of us.
We must not forget that American Healthcare is the best in the world. It is the cost and how we deliver that healthcare that needs to be fixed or reformed. What makes this country great is the freedom of choice and the spirit of competition!
Some tips on how to be a savvy healthcare consumer:
• Be up front with your primary care physician that you are paying for a large portion of your healthcare and that you want the best quality at the lowest price. This goes for services or medications. Ask your PCP to consider this with every referral or prescription he or she makes for you.
• Use the internet to search for the best services possible. Asking friends and family who they recommend helps but there is also a whole world of online reviews out there that can help you understand the “consumer’s perspective” on the provider you are considering.
• Ask the provider what the costs are for the services you are about to receive. Keep in mind that with high deductible plans, you will pay the provider whatever the insurance would normally pay them. This means that if an insurance company pays certain providers more money for the same service, because of a contractual agreement, then the consumer would have to pay that same amount. Therefore, the cost for that service could vary significantly from provider to provider.
• Ask to take a tour of the facility and meet with providers. You can learn a lot about the experience you may have with a provider or facility if you see it first.
• Each year when you renew your insurance with the subscriber’s employer, take a look at the plan details (especially the cheapest plans) to be sure there are no restrictions on your choice of where and who you receive your medical services from. There are many networks forming that are restricting choice and this potentially could eliminate or limit your ability to be an educated consumer of healthcare.