Does consumer driven health care (CDHC) really present a viable alternative to the growing problems that health insurance presents? This solution requires more payment upfront than traditional health insurance plans, but it also requires more maintenance, education and tracking as well. By offering tax-free incentives, CDHC systems may very well be the thing that changes consumerism in the health marketplace.
What the CDHC system does is shift the primary amount of responsibility of health care management to consumers. Originating in the late 1990s, consumer directed health plans were designed to have consumers take on a proactive role in medical treatments and respective expenses. Through systems like health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) consumers became able to make their health care more affordable and accessible. One study indicated that consumers using in this system were more likely to inquire about costs, use a cheaper treatment option and follow treatment regimes more carefully. Due to the large upfront costs required, by default, this system places the burden on consumers to plan their expenses as much as possible.
Consumer driven health care is not necessarily for everyone. A concern under scrupulous study is the idea that less wealthy and educated consumers will not be able to manage a system like this. First off, they won't have the money to utilize a plan like high deductible health insurance. On top of that, they will not take the time to make informed, appropriate choices for their situation. Costs will largely be the determining factor for deciding which treatment is used.
One thing that will make CDHC systems a success is if consumers have health products, services and pricing at their finger tips. The internet will also have a large role to play in the communication of information. With the rise of internet commerce, many online users are using the web as a tool for fact finding and education. Additionally, it is expected that a new that the internet will develop into a new marketplace for health care shopping and related services.
People are not really informed about the costs of health care maintenance. The internet will be a way to change that. When someone decides to purchase a car, they know exactly what they'll be getting. They'll know all the features and any "add-on" options available. When someone purchases a doctor's visit (especially with medical issues requiring longer care regimes) they don't know what they'll be getting themselves into. One test could lead to another test which leads to a visit to another doctor and so on. Treatment regimes are not standardized and they cannot be fully effective if they were.
Will the consumer driven health care option be a solution to providing quality health care? As a consumer, we should be spending more time in reviewing which option suits our needs best. Everyone will have different treatment needs and expectations. Some may need the benefit of having as much health coverage as possible, but overall, we should all be looking at ways to reduce costs for the entire system.