Approximately half of Americans receive health insurance through their employer, and recent healthcare legislation indicates that this trend will continue and potentially increase. Expanding health insurance coverage is a good thing, but it can be argued that employer-sponsored health plans also mask the true cost of healthcare for many beneficiaries. This section is meant to get us thinking about how we can all improve healthcare through awareness and education. For specific information on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on employers, please see the employers area in the healthcare legislation section.
In July of 2012, the National Business Group on Health published a poll entitled Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering Economy: a Survey of Employees. Among other things, the survey revealed that 62% of employees can't estimate the amount of money employers spend on health benefits, and those who believed they could were not always accurate. The significance of this is that a lot of Americans don't understand the true cost of health coverage or medical care in general. Now add on top of this our suspicion that many employees do not fully understand the benefits of their employer-sponsored plans and are generally not offered the chance to have benefits presented to them in a useful and engaging manner, and we have a lot of people who are blindly tiptoeing their way through the healthcare system.
Imagine a product that you buy frequently at a department store. Now imagine that you have no idea what that product costs, what the product is made of, what it's used for, or if it's what you need to accomplish the task at hand. This is the reality faced by many healthcare consumers everyday. The proliferation of consumer driven healthcare, characterized often by high deductible health plans, has been driven by the philosophy that patients should be more acutely aware of healthcare costs, and this will cause them to make better and more informed medical decisions. The idea seems to make sense. However, without some education on how to utilize healthcare effectively, it's kind of like giving a small child a $10 bill and asking him to buy dinner at the supermarket. How many children know the difference between a well rounded meal and $10 worth of potato chips? How many healthcare consumers know the difference between valuable, affordable healthcare and unnecessary, expensive healthcare?
Again, this discussion is meant to get us thinking about how we can improve healthcare through awareness and education. We believe that it is the responsibility of all healthcare stakeholders to seek out and disseminate healthcare knowledge. That includes employers, insurers, providers, and patients. Insurers and employers need to present healthcare benefits in an engaging and useful manner; providers, who most of us use as the ultimate resource on necessary care, need to educate patients on their options, and patients need to take it upon themselves to understand their benefits and make informed decisions. These types of efforts are what will result in long-term cost savings and healthcare quality maximization.
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