NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

CONSUMERS DRIVING HEALTH CARE TSUNAMI

June 21, 2007

U.S. industry segments are coming together to increase the potential size and popularity of consumer directed health care, taking advantage of a huge reserve of money that could develop in the next 10 years, says Dean Halverson, CEO of the Leede Research Group.

For instance:

  • Banks have begun offering health coverage as part of their insurance programs and are aggressively developing consumer models such as health savings accounts (HSAs).
  • The reverse is also occurring; health insurers such as United Health Care and Blue Cross Blue Shield have gained bank charters to handle the growing number of HSAs.
  • Retailers are also getting into the game, offering clinics and other more direct services.
  • Wal-Mart recently announced it will offer clinics in as many as 2,000 of its stores; Walgreens and CVS Pharmacies have purchased national retail clinic chains.

One of the main drivers is convenience, says Halverson:

  • In many markets, a mom who has a child with an ear infection, for example, can walk into a retail location and see a nurse practitioner without an appointment.
  • They can get a diagnosis and leave with an eardrop prescription in as little as 15 minutes.
  • They pay for this visit by credit card, generally for under $50, and often at their own expense.

The movement toward consumer models that better allow choice will continue to grow, says Halverson.  Eventually, we will purchase health services as we do other services, based on what best fit our needs.  In addition, as we move to a true consumer model, providers will be forced to make pricing available to consumers in a clear fashion.  They will be judged on the value they provide, taking into consideration quality and cost.

Source: Dean Halverson, "Consumers driving health care tsunami," Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, June 21, 2007.

 

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