Consumer confidence in the healthcare system is still low, a quarter of Americans are skipping medical care because of the cost, and even government is cutting benefits. Here's what you can do.
This hasn’t been a carefree summer for healthcare. In fact, the heat is on. First, the bad news…
Patient, Heal Thyself
With unemployment still high, one in five Americans didn’t seek medical care for a recent illness or injury – with four out of 10 citing cost as the big reason.
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed more than 4,000 adults this summer and found a steep decline in the number of consumers who visited a physician or healthcare professional in the past year: 79 percent of in 2010 compared with 85 percent in 2009.
Your Reputation Needs Surgery
You’ve heard of the Consumer Price Index. What about the Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index?
“Fifty percent of respondents expect healthcare reform to increase healthcare costs,” said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at Thomson Reuters. “That concern is showing up in our consumer sentiment data.”
Local Governments Get Tough
The common wisdom isn’t so common anymore: If you want good healthcare, work for the government.
Local governments are cutting way back on healthcare – especially for their retirees, claims a new report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. In a survey of more than 200 local governments, the center found…
- 36 percent have increased or plan to increase the years of service required to be vested in their retirement healthcare plans.
- 11 percent have increased the retirement age.
- 39 percent have eliminated or plan to eliminate all retiree health benefits for new hires.
Consumers Drive the Debate
Another study actually contains some good news. The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute has just released a detailed summary of about consumer-driven health plans. CDHPs, as they’re known, have been around for a decade and usually refer to higher-deductible health plans that have a number of innovations in them – such as health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts.
CDHPs are controversial: While they benefit healthier, younger people who want more control over their healthcare choices, they can be confusing for the less wealthy and educated. But they’re catching on, according to the new report…
- More than 19 million Americans, or 11 percent of individuals with private health insurance, were enrolled in a CDHP in 2009.
- Generally, premiums for CDHPs were lower than premiums for non-CDHPs. (Growth in premiums varies both by type of plan and over time.)
The study also found that participants in CDHPs are also savvier about saving money. They use more generic drugs, and CDHP enrollees increased their use of the mail-order pharmacy option.” So in this anything-but-lazy summer of healthcare crises, you may want to look into CDHPs. But read this first: Is High Deductible Heath Insurance Healthy?