Healthcare reform law to usher in new age of consumerism Los Angeles Times
September 10, 2012
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is changing the
way insurers do business. A few years from now, you may see your
health plan in a different light. You might even decide you like
it — even if it’s not that much more affordable.
But it’s not all good news: Future employers are also expected to
shift more costs to employees, and consumers will generally take
on more of their healthcare expenses.
“A greater role in cost sharing is really forcing consumers to
take a hard look at the care they access,” said Robin Gelburd,
president of Fair Health, a New York City nonprofit that provides
healthcare cost information.
The health reform law will bring millions of new potential
customers to insurers’ doorsteps starting in 2014, ushering in a
new age of consumerism. New services, tools and communication
strategies are being developed to attract and retain your
business, much the way banks and retailers have for years.
Health insurance companies will offer perks such as health
coaching, online tools and medical information you can use to
help you manage your health conditions. They’ll develop mobile
apps to help you find the closest pharmacy in your network and
then show you which drugs are covered by your plan. They’re
creating video and online games to help you monitor your diet and
exercise. And some have set up retail stores where you can talk
with a specialist about your health insurance options or hash out
problems with claims.
Gelburd says most large insurers already offer online cost
calculators that help patients determine what their expenses will
be before they seek care. Those that don’t have one soon will.
Insurers are also changing the way they pay healthcare providers,
which just might improve the quality of care you receive. Moving
in line with models called for in the health reform law, payment
methods will reward doctors and hospitals for providing quality
care — not just more care.
You’ll see the lines between healthcare providers and insurance
companies blurring as both join together to create new entities
such as accountable care organizations, or ACOs — groups of
physicians, hospitals and, in some cases, insurers — to
coordinate all the care for a large group of patients.
Insurers are also eyeing businesses that will help them expand
their reach in a changing market to offer an even wider range of
services. Over the last year, insurers have acquired healthcare
technology firms and dental and eye-care companies, among others,
said Jill Daily, a senior executive with Accenture Health in New
York. The consulting firm projects that insurers will invest $10
billion to $12 billion in acquiring new lines of business over
the next four years.
With all these changes, what does the insurance company of the
future look like?
At its core, your health plan will be an information provider,
said Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America’s Health Insurance
Plans, an insurance industry trade group in Washington, D.C. It
will offer you resources, tools and education so that you can
best take care of yourself and use your health benefits like a
“The future is about providing information in a digestible way to
consumers so they can be empowered,” Ignagni said.