Employees Should ‘Jump’ at ‘Consumer-Driven’ Health Plans, Bee Columnist Says
"Consumer-driven" health insurance plans, which "at least a dozen major California companies" will offer employees by next year, are a "step in the right direction" and "[p]ut the customer back in charge -- and on the hook," Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub writes (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 1/27). The plans -- the first "big shift" from traditional managed care -- are designed to move costs to employees and get patients to "act more like shoppers." Three types of plans exist: high-deductible plans, in which employers pay into a health care savings account and employees are responsible for any additional expenses; defined contribution plans, in which employers offer a set amount of money for a variety of insurance products and employees pay the cost difference; and after-tax savings accounts, which couple a traditional insurance plan for major medical expenses with a savings account for routine care (California Healthline, 1/10). According to Weintraub, the "best of these plans" provide consumers with the "information they need to better manage their own care." Patients can make educated choices between brand-name and generic drugs or use patient outcomes to choose between heart surgeons, Weintraub writes. One "downside" to the plans includes the incentive for patients to "scrimp on needed procedures, postpone tests or use less effective medicine." In addition, some experts worry that only healthy people will use the new plans, "saddl[ing]" traditional plans with the "sickest and most expensive patients." But employees should "jump at the chance" to make their own health care decisions, Weintraub says, "even at the risk of paying slightly more for the privilege" (Sacramento Bee, 1/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.