Healthcare consumerism is defined as ‘transforming an employer’s health benefit plan into one that puts economic purchasing power and decision-making, in the hands of participants.’ Such a powerful definition highlighting the mutual benefit for both employees and employers. Yet, many health plans are lacking consumerism.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t like change. We’re creatures of habit and being consumers of healthcare isn’t something we’re used to doing. Most folks just go to the doctor and do what they’re told. A lot of folks think it doesn’t matter if they spend time ‘shopping’ for the best solution because someone else is paying the bill anyway (for most people that would be the employer sponsoring their plan). What many folks don’t understand is that the costs are being passed on to them in the way of payroll contributions and plan changes. This is because of the healthcare decisions we all make.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was first rolled out, many of us were wondering how it would affect us. What changes will be made? Will the employer and/or individual mandate go away? Will employers and insurance carriers need to keep providing the IRS with reporting? Will we continue to have mandated benefits that insurance companies must cover?

While the establishment of the healthcare reform changes brought uncertainties, there was one thing we knew was guaranteed. Money will still be paid by the consumer, in the form of premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copays. The ACA in a way is encouraging healthcare consumerism.

It is important that we are all better consumers. Becoming educated and pro-active will not only help to slow the tide of the rising cost of healthcare, but also save the company and its employees money as well.

While there are many areas where we can improve, at the very least we need to begin by promoting the below to our workforce:

  • Make the right lifestyle decisions (eating, drinking, smoking, exercising, etc.)
  • Get preventive care – Regular checkups, immunizations and screenings that can help detect or prevent serious problems. This keeps us healthy and help limit long-term expenses.
  • Use a convenience care clinic – If we can’t get an appointment with our regular doctor, convenience care clinics inside grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores can provide quick and affordable care.
  • Consider an urgent care center – For non-life-threatening issues, consider an urgent care center instead of an emergency room. It could save hundreds of dollars.
  • Go generic – Generic drugs typically cost less and can be equally effective for most people.

This is a good place to start. Employers should work with their employee benefit consultants to develop strategies that give their employees the information and tools they need, along with financial incentives that encourage personal involvement.

For more ways to promote healthcare consumerism, chat with an MMA advisor today.

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