Finance staffers have been urging employees to ask questions and shop around for less-costly, high quality health care for years now — and it looks like many employees are finally heeding the call.
That’s the good news regarding healthcare cost transparency.
Step in the right direction
Specifically, 50% of individuals have tried to find out how their health care would cost before getting care, according to a recent report by the Public Agenda and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
A little more than half (53%) of the individuals who compared the prices of common healthcare services did, in fact, save money.
The report also broke down the various places employees turned to for price info before getting medical care and found:
- 55% went to a friend, relative or colleague
- 48% went to their insurance company (by phone or online)
- 46% went to their doctor
- 45% asked a receptionist or other doctor’s office staffer
- 31% went to the hospital billing department
- 29% asked a nurse
- 20% relied on the Internet (other than their insurance company’s website), and
- 17% used a mobile phone app.
Another encouraging finding from the report: Employees don’t think saving money on healthcare services means receiving lower quality care. In fact, 70% of individuals said higher prices aren’t a sign of better quality healthcare.
The bad news
But the report wasn’t all good news.
For one thing, many employees are painfully unaware of the disparity in pricing for similar healthcare services. In fact, fewer than 50% of Americans are aware that hospitals and doctor’s prices can vary.
There are also problems when employees do inquire or shop around for less costly health care.
Sixty three percent of Americans say there isn’t enough information about how much medical services cost.
And when employees do at least inquire about cost before seeking treatment, most don’t think the next and most critical step: comparing multiple providers’ prices. Just 20% of the study respondents who asked about pricing went on to compare pricing.
Where you come in
Overall, the report is good news for employers, and firms should take the findings as evidence employees are finally ready to help find ways to lower the company’s overall health costs.
But it’s up to Finance staffers and HR to help them succeed.
One way: Rolling out “how to” session on healthcare service comparison tools and finding providers — and this is especially important for small- and mid-sized companies. Employees at these firms are more likely to seek medical services based solely on location.
As Tibi Zohar, president and CEO of DoctorGlobe put it:
“The reality for most small to mid-size companies is that their health plan members tend to continue to seek health care at the nearest hospital or the one recommended by their doctors or friends.”
Another effective tactic: Adding incentives when employees use cost transparency tools in the form of premium discounts, contributions to HSAs or FSAs or even old-fashioned gift cards.
Remember, the transparency tools are those that employees can relate to personally and show exactly how much they will pay out-of-pocket for medical services.