Being a proponent of consumerism in healthcare is like being a Cubs fan in Chicago – you can’t give up. So when my colleague Roy Ramthun pointed out the Cubs beat the Orioles twice last weekend, I took notice of two recent studies that support my belief that consumerism can only grow in healthcare.
First, medical spending by consumers is rising faster than wages. This will only likely continue as a growing percentage of employers indicated they would be adopting high deductible health plans as a way of controlling health benefit costs. Consequently medical spending will be a more significant figure in our household budgets.
Milton Friedman said “nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.” When more of our own money is spent on healthcare, it stands to reason that we will be more cognizant of what choices we make. We may not be wiser but at least we’ll be more aware (if not poorer).
And we need more transparency about costs in order to be more prudent purchasers. Physicians will now jump into the mix if recommendations from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement are followed. A panel suggests physicians should help their patients understand not only the price of treatments but also the value. So when a doctor tells you it might be more cost effective to go to a Minute Clinic to have your child’s throat checked, that recommendation will carry even more weight because of the source.
Taking the baseball analogy to its farthest conclusion, the bases are getting loaded. People are spending more on health. Clinicians will help us learn more about value in healthcare services. And with open enrollment less than 90 days away, indications are exchanges will be busy with consumers selecting their plans. While the Cubs may not go much further this season, consumerism in health is going to be playing for some time.