The University of Virginia announced they’re no longer offering health insurance coverage for spouses who can obtain coverage elsewhere. While this generated the usual teeth gnashing about “ObamaCare” on FOX News, it is a stretch to blame the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for these changes in benefit policies.
Employers have implemented a range of tactics to manage their benefit costs, including changes to spousal coverage. You’ve read and perhaps experienced many of them – increases in deductibles, co-pays and premiums, drug formularies, restricted networks, out-of-network coverage, higher proportional costs for dependent coverage. Each effort has been deployed for years and is intended to address the rising cost of health insurance. They are incremental and obvious steps but not “game changers.”
Likewise, universities such as the University of Virginia are looking at ways to manage their costs and increase their revenues. They have created “executive education programs,” host workshops and meetings, offer on-line courses and have even set up schools overseas. But these aren’t game changers for universities either.
In fact, universities and institutions of higher learning have similar challenges to those we face in health care when it comes to costs. My colleague Fred Karutz reminds me the only chart with nearly the same slope as percentage increases in health premiums and costs is the tuition of private colleges. Public universities aren’t too far behind.
What is the game changer going to be in health care? We believe it is the consumer – the American shopper. Yes, there are lots of challenges and so many reasons why this transition will be hard for many Americans. And yet there are over 5,000 institutions of higher learning to choose from in the U.S. Americans have learned how to make a value determination – cost and quality – when it comes to higher learning.
Let’s put the same energy at work in health care and let Americans shop for the health products that best meet their needs. At ConnectedHealth we’re inspired by the way consumers can make informed decisions about their health — provided they have a good framework and guidance — and the way their employers are able to manage their benefit costs. The ACA was an important step forward in terms of providing access to care (especially with guarantee issue). Let’s work on the challenges of cost and affordability, not to mention quality and transparency, and stop with the teeth gnashing over old news.