Black Friday!! Wait for Healthcare?
Would it surprise you that most Americans are willing to spend more time researching TVs, cell phones, vacations, and vehicles than they are learning about their own healthcare options? Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, and not only do the masses stampede retail stores, but they also do their due diligence. They know which items have the biggest discounts, which stores they’re going to shop at first, and they are even willing to wait in line for hours just so they don’t miss out on the top item on their list. The good news is that consumerism is making heavy strides in healthcare due to the rising cost of both coverage and services – not to mention all of the changes that have been implemented because of the Affordable Care Act. How, though, can consumers educate themselves when it comes to choosing the best healthcare at the best price? Can they ever expect healthcare to be on sale? Should hospitals and doctors’ offices provide this education to attract and retain patients?
Unlike commodities, no one chooses to get sick or hurt. This creates a lack of interest until a health event is triggered. In an emergency, you don’t have time to “shop around;” you want to get treated as soon as possible. The first step is to be proactive: if your coverage is obtained at work, listen and ask questions during your enrollment meeting. You may not remember all the information you hear, but make sure you are aware of where you can obtain it for when the time comes. If your doctor recommends a procedure, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion or speak with the billing specialist. They should be more than willing to breakdown the cost for you, which you can then use to call other facilities to compare pricing. If all this seems daunting, ask your employer to work with an advocacy service. Did you know there are companies out there that specialize in auditing your bill, researching doctors, and locating facilities near you and even ranking them?
Can you imagine seeing a commercial or advertisement that said “50% off healthcare services today?” You’d almost want to be ill just for the savings. Even worse, though, you might hold off until the sale kicked in, putting your health in jeopardy. It’s safe to say we’ll never have a black Friday sale for ER visits, surgeries, or any other health procedure (excluding, of course, cosmetic or elective ones). The search for low cost services can hit a road block when you take into consideration a plan’s network. Insurance companies negotiate ahead of time with providers what they’ll pay for each service and procedure, and this, in turn, limits a consumer’s ability to find the best price since all doctors in that network have agreed to the same terms. It’s important to mention that most patients put a priority on experience, hospital quality, and satisfaction. In other words, they don’t mind paying a high premium if they’re able to recover their health.
Transparency in cost has not only been heavily debated, but hospitals and doctors have also seen the positive financial impact it’s had. When a patient is evaluating where to get a certain procedure done, having access to objective metrics immediately draws their attention because it gives them the data very few present. Much like a product review, patients are more likely to trust those who offer more information than those who don’t. Healthcare will never be like buying the latest electronic device. The price will not always be the determining factor, but making the customer experience a success will have an influence on where people choose to get treated.
Aligning yourself with the right broker is crucial because brokers are the ones you are entrusting to guide you and your employees towards both the plan and carrier that best fit your need. Be open minded about meeting with a broker off cycle since it will allow you to focus on their strategy rather than the products they offer. Have them explain exactly how they will educate each employee making sure they understand the benefits offered.
About the author: Angel joined the AG team in 2016 after partnering with us on several projects for mutual clients over the course of the last decade. Now he brings his charisma, his big brain and his desire to make a positive impact to our collective team of industry leading consultants. Oh, and he is already a published author before he ever picked up a pen for our humble AG Blog.
About AG Insurance: AG Insurance (www.agiainc.com) helps employers and their employees with solutions focused on positive organizational impact and improved employee experiences.