Consumer-driven to save money

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The group change:healthcare is a leading edge informatics company created to help individuals and employers save money on health care expenses.

If you knew you could get the same procedure or service for hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars less than what your physician or hospital charges, you could certainly make a more informed decision about where you chose to go.

That’s just what change:healthcare offers — the opportunity to see what other providers are charging for the same product or service. Their enormous database contains cost data on literally thousands of providers and drugstores.

During the last five years, employee health care costs have risen by 40 percent, while employers’ costs have increased by 29 percent. During the same period, more than 6 million employees have migrated (mostly by necessity) to consumer-driven health plans.

We forecasted this shift some years ago.

No one would disagree that for many, the costs are simply unbearable. They respond by either not going to the doctor, taking the medication or having the procedure.

“Most people don’t apply the normal rules of consumerism to health care,” said Robert Hendrick, co-founder and chief operating officer of change:healthcare. “They do not think of medical care as a commodity.”

However, when quality care or the very same prescription medication is available at a much lower cost in the same metro area, then many of us will choose to take action. Typical corner drugstores, including the large chains, charge 30 percent to 40 percent more than some other providers, such as grocery pharmacies.

In this economic climate, that savings is very meaningful.

So what is the benefit for employers? After analyzing 12 to 18 months of past claims data, the company performs an analysis to look at the range of rates in the geographical area. The typical cost savings is substantial — between 25 percent and 40 percent … and the pharmaceuticals involved are not generics, but branded drugs.

It is not uncommon for employer savings to exceed $250,000.

Making people aware of their options allows them to make more informed decisions. Particularly in these challenging times, consumers will vote with their pocketbooks in the United States and overseas.

From The Herman Trend Alert, by Joyce Gioia-Herman, strategic business futurist. www.hermangroup.com