The American health insurance marketplace is being transformed by the move toward consumerism, with patients seeking more control over their health care spending and treatment options. This is precipitating many changes in the medical profession — some welcome, some not.
Increased consumerism can strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, with patients working more actively with their physicians, instead of their insurance companies, in making vital decisions.
But it also means that patients will demand more medical and cost information from their physicians.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can give patients an incentive to seek value in their spending on health care. Those with HSAs are motivated to engage in managing their own health.
For example, one major study1 found that consumers with HSAs were 50% more likely to ask about costs and three times more likely to choose a less extensive, less expensive treatment option.
These HSA consumers also are more attentive to wellness and prevention: They were 25% more likely to engage in healthy behaviors and 30% more likely to get an annual physical. Why? 51% of CDHC consumers agreed that "If I catch an issue early, I will save money in the long run."
Many companies are instituting new programs to engage employees with chronic conditions in better coordinated care since patients in consumer-directed health plans are more likely to comply with treatment regimens for their chronic conditions.
Of course, CDHC is not a complete solution for America's health care problems, and it presents many challenges for physicians. But it rapidly growing and can help in many ways, including motivation to return the medical profession to its foundation of care centered on the patient-doctor relationship. One key is for physicians to be responsive to this emerging movement.
That's my opinion. I'm Grace-Marie Turner, President, Galen Institute.
1 McKinsey & Company. "Consumer-Directed Health Plan Report: Early Evidence is Promising." June 2005. Available online at mckinsey.com.