“We’ve created a monster, and it’s not surprising to me that there’s literacy issues,” says Kathleen Call, a professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “I’ve studied this stuff, and sometimes I make mistakes.”Call has grown increasingly concerned that the complexity of insurance could compromise public health by keeping people away from the doctor.”People are treating it more like car insurance: You don’t use it until something happens,” she says. “You have an accident, then you use it. Otherwise you’re trying not to use it. And that’s not the way we want health insurance to be used.”
Call’s comment concerning people not wanting to use their health insurance coverage touches upon a deep philosophical split over what it should be in the Affordable Care Act era. In the age of the health maintenance organization that came about in the 1970s and 1980s, HMOs were a hybrid product consisting pre-paid primary care and protection for high cost care such as major accidents and medical events. Before the HMO, there was major medical coverage that covered only the latter with the patient paying out of pocket for the former.
Today, the United States is shifting back to pre-HMO days. Instead of major medical coverage as it was called in the 1950s and 1960s, we now have high deductible or consumer driven plans. With rising health care costs, the all inclusive HMO plans with little in the way of out of pocket costs are no longer feasible. The problem is people still remember these rich HMO plans of the recent past and see high deductible plans as a poor value by comparison — or even valueless as they were described in a recent New York Times story.
The NPR item featured here makes the case for a simplified high deductible policy resembling the major medical coverage of the past, with a flat deductible of say $2,500 and a 20 percent coinsurance level. And automatically health savings account compatible.
That would be a true insurance product since it would cover large, unexpected medical expenses. Since patients would be responsible for care costs incurred below the deductible, these plans would reduce health plan issuer administrative costs involved in processing reimbursements for lower cost care events and the burden of keeping practitioner directories updated. It also dovetails with the consumer trend of convenience-oriented primary care delivered at retail and employer-sponsored clinics, online and through pre-paid arrangements.
Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email