From clothing, beauty products, and home decor to electronics, appliances, and even groceries — virtually anything can be purchased online. Why can’t we shop for healthcare like we shop for everything else? Believe it or not, there are service providers working to offer just that — an online shopping experience that helps everyday healthcare consumers compare costs and make smart spending decisions on everything from medical services and doctors to prescription medication. They’re called Price Transparency Providers, and they might just be the force of nature we need to drive healthcare consumerism all the way to the finish line.
Unfortunately, many employers aren’t aware that they can add this benefit to their healthcare packages and, even if they do, employees either don’t know they have it or don’t know how to use it. If the rising cost of healthcare is a concern to you — this must change. Here’s why:
The Rise of Consumerism
When the Internet became a household utility, and eCommerce started replacing brick-and-mortar storefronts, something pivotal happened. A seismic shift in the power dynamic between product/service providers and consumers shook the economy and reshaped the marketplace — indefinitely. We no longer needed pushy salespeople and their often-misleading pitches to make a purchasing decision. All we needed was internet access, which instantly connected us to a larger inventory of options, product information, and easy-to-compare pricing. Most importantly, the Internet became a repository of customer reviews that we now use regularly to validate the quality and dependability of the products, services, and businesses we choose to patronize. This is what consumerism is all about!
The Impact on Product/Service Providers
As a result of this power shift, businesses had to start earning their customers by putting the “sale” on the back-burner. Instead, they began focusing on how to cultivate a better relationship between their brand and buyers. Their survival depended on whether or not they produced a product or service that was deemed trustworthy and genuine by the customer. If they failed, customer reviews were (and are) powerful enough to put a severe dent in business. The greatest benefit that resulted from consumerism is a higher standard for quality, integrity, and customer service; a standard set by the people and followed by the businesses that serve them. What if healthcare followed the same transformation and you were in control of the system?
Transparency Providers & Healthcare Consumerism
Price transparency providers are a supplemental service that employers can add to their benefits program to help employees better navigate the healthcare system. In the same way that Google pulls up dozens of products and services when you submit a search inquiry, price transparency providers use tools to locate the best deals on healthcare services. Their services include:
- Finding top-rated providers and facilities
- Comparing costs for care and prescriptions
- Educating employees on their benefits
- Helping employees interpret medical bills
- Coordinating care by verifying coverage and scheduling appointments
With assistance from a transparency provider, employees can shop for the best prices, read patient reviews, seek out highly-rated facilities, and choose the most reputable doctors — all based on fact, not the recommendation of an insurance carrier.
National healthcare spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 5.5% until 2026, at which point, the total cost will reach $5.7 trillion. This cost will continue to trickle down to business owners, who already struggle to provide cost-effective healthcare. However, the rise of healthcare consumerism represents significant hope. By including transparency providers in your benefits package and (equally important) teaching employees how to use these services, you can:
- Encourage employees to become savvy healthcare shoppers.
- Lower the cost of healthcare (and associated business costs) across your organization.
- Help employees see their benefits as an incentive rather than an entitlement.
- Support a healthier, happier workforce.
- Progress the healthcare consumerism movement.
Employers aren’t the only ones feeling the immense pressure of rising healthcare costs. A recent Milliman Medical Index report predicts that the average family of four will spend $28,000 on healthcare by the end of 2018. As healthcare costs maintain their steady rise, employees foot a greater percentage of the bill and struggle just as much as employers to make ends meet. By leveraging the advantages of transparency providers, employees can:
- Know the cost and quality of care before they book an appointment.
- Wisely and strategically spend their precious healthcare dollars.
- Accurately plan for healthcare expenses.
- Grow their HSA accounts, accrue more interest, and retire with larger savings to pay for Part B of Medicare or other healthcare expenses.
The advantages of price transparency providers and tools are many, but nobody wins if employees don’t know what the benefit is and how to use it. As always, your greatest ally in the fight to control healthcare costs is communication and education. By working with an experienced broker, your organization will have the support needed to create a strategic plan for employee healthcare, including resources like video to help educate employees on what their options are and how to maximize their value.
Interested in learning about more ways to control the rising cost of healthcare?
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