Photo: Flickr via mkmabus
In an effort to drive down healthcare costs, some employers have started offering employees cash rebates in exchange for picking cheaper medical providers. This is a recipe for disaster.
From the employer’s side of things, the grass is a little greener. Like one Connecticut-based CEO told NPR’s Michelle Andrews, it’s a painless way to trim the cost of providing insurance to his 500 employees.
“We need to change consumption behaviours,” Cooper told NPR. “We need to get people consuming health care the same way they consume everything else.”
But that’s like telling people to treat their health like a new pair of jeans. Forget the name brand stuff, wait till you find a good deal at the outlet mall, and then pounce on it. Dangling a carrot with a $100 bucks at the end of that stick only sweetens the deal and it’s no wonder consumers have been lining up to participate.
The problem is that by doing so, they could be either a) cheating themselves out of care when they really need it or b) sacrificing quality just to score easy cash. How many stories about shoddy medical practices do we need to read to remind us that not all physicians are created equally?
If employers really want to trim their health care costs, then offering wellness programs or incentives for employees to join a gym or ditch their smoking habit is where they should start. Many companies are already on board.
There’s a bright side (a small one)
The positive part of plans like Compass SmartShopper is that they give consumers the kind of pricing transparency that’s not always accessible. If one hospital charges $1,000 more for the exact same MRI service as another, then by all means, consumers should be able to know that and go with the more affordable option.
“In theory, price transparency can benefit both employees and employers if employees are able to make better decisions about their healthcare. It can also benefit medical providers because patients who understand the costs upfront are less likely to have billing issues later,” Joshua Greenberg of HealthCPA told Your Money.
“But these decisions should not be driven purely on price. It’s your health we’re talking about, so pricing transparency should not be the only deciding factor … People should make sure they are looking at the quality of care they will receive as well.”
It’s always in your best interest to vet your physician beforehand, whether they’re recommended by friends or insurance providers. Start by checking out these helpful sites.
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