It is an odd time for employee health benefits. After 50 years trying to use “insurance” to cover every encounter with the health care system, the curtain is being pulled back to reveal it might be a very expensive approach for both employers and their workers. What should we make of headlines in just the last 90 days, like “Medical Bills Going Down If You Pay Cash – Way Down” or “Cash-Only Pharmacy Offers Savings on Medicines” or even the Wall Street Journal’s “How To Cut Your Health-Care Bill: Pay Cash”?
Turns out, Employer based Health “Coverage” in the form of “insurance” might be taking a bigger bite out of your paycheck than you think. Is it possible that your local primary care doctor, specialist, hospital, surgi-center, pharmacy or imaging center, might actually negotiate a far lower cost for you than what has been prescribed the minute you show them your health insurance card from your employer? These and many other articles argue yes. It is a very different world, Dorothy. We aren’t in Kansas anymore.
The Affordable Care Act, ongoing regulation complexities, insurance company reimbursement challenges, and more direct relationships with patients have changed how the medical community wants to operate. It is now more open for business and business deals with its patients and employers than ever.
So don’t be surprised to see radical new models from your employer that help you become a more wise buyer of health care services. Models that allow you to own your own benefits; that blend insurance and credit; models that negotiate your costs for you, regardless of your insurance coverage, optimizing the overall system.
Don’t be surprised if in the near future, when the next time you receive care, you keep your insurance card in your pocket!