HPCI News: Patients Becoming Customers

To: Members and Selected Others

David P. Lind Benchmark just released its 2016 Iowa Employer Benefits Study. It is the 18th Annual Study. It contains many very interesting and important facts and trends. For example, Iowa employer health insurance premiums increased 8% - similar to 2015. Also, costs have moderated since the Accountable Care Act took effect in 2010.

It also described the various ways Iowa employers have used to contain their health insurance costs. One of these is passing some of the increased costs to their employees. The average annual premium for family coverage this year is $15,743. Of that amount, on average, the employer contribution is $10,902 and the worker contribution is $4,840.

Many of these trends and strategies parallel those nationally. Employers are adopting strategies to stream costs and improve care for their employees. Some are calibrating payment to the achievement of high-quality care. Others are paying employees to seek out a second opinion or explore a range of treatment options. Still others are offering on-site clinics, telemedicine and other innovative programs to increase preventive care. But, according to a September issue in Forbes, the most dramatic cost control strategy is the one that sparks the most controversy: shifting to high-deductible health plans.

Deductibles have increased substantially in the past decade. And many employers help employees by contributing to tax-advantaged health saving accounts. These plans can do something else: turn patients into shoppers. While healthcare consumerism is still evolving it could drive a market for long-overdue improvements.

The idea has already driven significant change in the health care system itself. Most health plans now offer decision-support tools. Hospitals are adopting principles of the hospitality industry to attract and retain patients. Many employ patient experience officers to monitor satisfaction in real time. Slowly but surely health care providers are learning that the patient in the bed is a customer, and that changes everything.

Note: A key to consumerism in health care is measurement and transparency of quality, patient safety and price. That is a HPCI priority. For more information go to www.hpci.org.

Paul M. Pietzsch, MPH
HPCI - IHBA Office
4430 Ashley Park Drive
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
(515) 778-6300

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