The health care reform law, also known as Obamacare, passed in 2010, and will be fully implemented in 2014. But so much is unknown about how consumers will be affected and whether they’ll end up paying more – or less – for health insurance.
Doug Field is the CEO and founder of the Institute for HealthCare Consumerism and FieldMedia, the parent company for HealthCare Consumerism Solutions magazine and EmployersWeb.com. He talked about health care reform and how it impacts consumers, especially the prices that consumers pay for health insurance and medical treatments.
What you should know about changes to health insurance
Do you think the Affordable Care Act and the new health care exchanges will increase or decrease health care costs for consumers in the future?
It’s going to increase it. It’s not going to decrease the costs. The public exchanges are simply a health care commerce site, a shopping place for consumers to go and buy access. With the federal subsidies, they’re going to choose the most expensive plan. They’re not going to be cost-conscious. (Also) the currently uninsured are a really sick population that’s very costly.
Can you explain how the public and private exchanges will work?
With the public exchanges, you’re talking about one of the most challenging segments of the country (people who are sick and uninsured right now). How are those exchanges going to sustain themselves? Individuals who don’t qualify for federal subsidies will find the public exchanges far more expensive than what they can get on the private market.
What do you think is most important for consumers to understand before they buy coverage on one of the exchanges?
The biggest challenge consumers have is many have never been asked to be a health care consumer and never had to think about what plan to pick. You have to think more as a consumer, not only how you buy your plan, but also what plan provides the best coverage for your family’s health care risks.
What types of consumers are most likely to buy coverage on one of the exchanges?
(Participating in) the public exchanges are going to be individuals who are not participating in an employer-sponsored plan and employees with an employer subsidy to buy coverage on the public exchange. The young and healthy will be comfortable using the exchanges.
Health care consumerism is a movement that encourages patients to take more responsibility for their health care decisions. It started with health savings accounts, where consumers can deposit money to pay for medical services tax-free. What are the next steps in the area of health care consumerism? What should consumers be expecting in the future?
Health care consumerism is a whole changing of personal responsibility in the hands of the employee, giving them tools to be better consumers of their health. What consumers should be looking for is a lot of dynamic change. If the consumer becomes better educated, there will be more and more change in the market. Then you may see more change on the provider level with providers facing more questions from the consumer.
There’s an emergence in mobile health. We’re going to have it all on our smartphone and ask our doctors the right questions. You’re going to see growth in mobile clinics and telemedicine (where doctors use technology like two-way video, email, smartphones and wireless tools to diagnose and treat patients). We’re going to (help solve) accessibility challenges with solutions like telemedicine and mobile health.