As the consumer healthcare market shifts, more scrutiny is being placed on cost of consumption of services. In a recent New York Times article Nov. 8, 2013, Good Deals on Pills? It’s Anyone’s Guess, Elisabeth Rosenthal reviews cost chaos with drugs.
For example, two popular medications for asthma and allergies, Advair and Rhinocort AQ, used by tens of thousands of Americans are no longer going to be covered by many benefit plans served by Medco/Express Scripts.
Shocked consumers will need to pay $300 and $150 respectively monthly for the brands they’re accustomed to, or find generics. In many cases, no approved generics are available.
Consumer Healthcare Cost Burden Shifting
In the past, consumers of healthcare have not been cognizant of the high cost of health care services or drugs. They presented an insurance card and rarely cared about the actual bill paid by the employer’s benefit plan.
This tradition is over, and the sticker shock over unsubsidized cost of medical and pharmaceutical prices is causing much anxiety.
A new burden is being placed on the consumer, and along with it, confusion.
Retiree Health Choices is a Chicago-based technology company creating tools to simplify the complexities in Medicare. This year, it launched a beta site in Illinois, EasyMedicareChoices.com, as an online marketplace for retirees and Boomers to review and analyze Medicare Supplement insurance plans from a variety of carriers. Retiree Health Choices built the site with the goal of providing consumers with full understanding of their Medicare insurance options.
It’s the first online site to provide a comparison of total costs based on consumer healthcare choices. Other sites in the market focus strictly on monthly premium, or the consumer takes the word of the broker or carrier about which plan is best.
The team behind this innovation includes health benefits, actuarial science, legal and technology professionals familiar with the ultra-complex Medicare sector.
What sets Retiree Health Choices apart from other sites of similar purpose is its use of actuarial calculators. The engine behind EasyMedicareChoices.com is a personal health calculator that computes the total cost of expected Medicare Supplement based on expected utilization, including premium and ancillary costs.
Another calculator currently under development by the company will forecast total expected funds required for health care expenditures through retirement. This will be a valuable financial planning tool for people entering retirement.
Proliferation of Online Marketplaces
In the New York Times article, Rosenthal features several sites using a similar consumer-centric orientation to EasyMedicareChoices.com:
- GoodRx “provide granular information on prescription prices in your area and coupons for deep discounts.”
- MediBid is “an online service through which patients can solicit bids from physicians for needed procedures.”
- Clear Health Costs is a site that uses insurance databases and patient crowdsourcing to find going rates in local areas.
Status Quo is No Longer
The only sure bet looking ahead is that the status quo is no longer. More burden will be placed on consumers to be better informed about what and how to pay for health care.
Those facing retirement on a fixed income and Medicare will feel the sea change soon and need to incorporate new strategies into
- Being better informed
- Finding online sites to drive decisions
- Comparison shop prior to targeting a purchase decision.