Health matters most in everyone's life no matter what is your age, gender, race, religion, or wealth. Healthcare is your own responsibility, your family's responsibility, your employer's responsibility, your government's responsibility and of course your doctor's and insurer's responsibility. However, when it comes to the cost of healthcare, the responsibilities become financial burdens. It is common sense that for healthcare, the responsibility must be shared hence the cost must be shared.
In the olden days, healthcare cost was almost completely covered by employers and government when the cost was affordable as part of business operation or government budget. Unfortunately, healthcare's cost has risen far higher than inflation and it has become not affordable by most employers and even the government. It became necessary to 'balance' the responsibility hence the cost of healthcare.
Of course, there are issues about how to control the rising cost of healthcare but the issues are very complex and not easily solvable. Some factors such as people living longer, more disease being treatable (with costly drugs and procedures) and people wanting the best for their health etc can not be eliminated from the rising cost of healthcare. Methods have been introduced to combat cost such as managed healthcare (HMOs), co-pay in insurance premium, in treatment cost and in prescription drugs, more computerization, etc., but the cost of healthcare is still rising faster than inflation. Today, the inflation is less than 3% but the healthcare cost is expected to rise more than 12% this year.
Well, one can not help but expect more 'balance' of healthcare responsibility. Insurers are going to raise premiums. Employers are going to shift more burdens to employees. Government is going to tighten the belt. A new trend, consumer-driven healthcare plan or defined-contribution plan is brewing to get individuals to have more responsibility for one's own health and one's family healthcare. One may argue that whether or not this is the ultimate solution to healthcare, but the fact it is being considered by more employers to shift the burden, one must gain sufficient knowledge and deal with this 'balance' of responsibility.
The consumer-driven plan by and large is cost sharing and co-managed plan. Typically, a employer contributes a fixed amount to an employee's healthcare account with an annual deductible and cost sharing plan if the cost ran above the fixed contributed amount. Say, your company contributes $1500 to your health care account with a $2000 deductible (from insurer's coverage) and 25% cost sharing beyond $2000 to $4500(with the employer). For the first $1500 healthcare cost you are completely covered. For the next $500, it is all your cost. Beyond $2000, you co-pay 25% with your employer up to another fixed amount, $2500. Beyond that the employer picks up the total cost like major medical coverage. As this kind of plans may be adopted by your employer soon, it pays to think about the truth and consequences and get a strategy ready for managing your healthcare responsibility.
The following is a list of thinking caps you ought to try for size:
When the new healthcare plan hits you, you may have to select your own doctor, your hospital, drug plan and possibly choices of insurers. Use search engines to gather general healthcare information and use special medical search engine to get medical knowledge. Try to use independent search tools not those sponsored by drug industry groups or companies trying to sell their own drugs. If a search engine gives you a million returns that is when you need to use an interactive drill-down special medical search tool to help you. If you had a medical problem or concern, do as much research as possible on the subject by using a special medical search tool. The effort you spent on gaining medical knowledge will not only save you money but will prolong your healthy life.
You, your employer and the healthcare insurance company are in one triangular relationship and you, your doctor (healthcare practitioner) and the healthcare insurance company are in another triangular relationship when it comes to deal with healthcare cost and quality. Remember the following when you deal with the healthcare issue:
Healthcare is a complex issue. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could live 100 years without medical problems? We can all hope for it to happen. Hope keeps everyone healthy.
Written by Ifay Chang, Ph.D. on April 24, 2002
Dr. Chang is the co-founder of Medical World Search which offers an intelligent medical search engine, called MWSearch. MWSearch is an independent search service without affiliation with any healthcare organization or drug companies. Medical World Search ( www.mwsearch.com ) has been offered for public use since 1996.
In early 90's, while working as a research scientist at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Dr. Chang led a group of researchers developing an advanced clinic information system with the purpose of supporting efficient and reliable healthcare practice. The system has been adopted by Kaiser Permanente and other healthcare organizations.
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