Is the ACA Making For Better Health Care Consumers?

Researchers at  TransUnion Healthcare concluded that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is causing consumers to pay closer attention to the cost of their medical care, and they are making decisions about their care based on the cost information they get from their health  care providers.  Increased consumer sensitivity to cost is a good thing, as a recent study by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found that employers will be asking employees to pay more for their care. Deloitte found that increasing employee financial responsibility was the number one way employers found to reduce their cost of providing care.

Cost Concerns

The TransUnion survey found that 60 percent of the people surveyed said that health reform has made them more concerned about the total cost of care, and that 62 percent said that health reform made them more concerned about their out-of-pocket costs. They survey found that people are attributing their increased consideration of the cost of care  to health care reform. TransUnion also found that 55 percent of people are now paying more attention to the details of their medical bills.  This attention to the cost is not limited to co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs; 67 percent of those surveyed by TransUnion said that they wanted to know the details of the costs paid by their insurers as well.  Milton Silva-Craig, President of TransUnion Healthcare said, “patients by necessity are becoming more educated consumers, and thus it will be more important than ever for hospitals and health systems to be transparent with the cost of care they provide.”

Costs Influence Decisions

Consumers are not only worried about the cost of care, but are making health care decisions based on the cost of that care. Obtaining the cost of care was ranked as the second most important factor in choosing a provider, according to the survey.   The availability of “world class specialists and technology” was the most important factor to survey respondents when choosing health care providers.  But less important than obtaining cost information, were high quality scores, distance to the provider, and assistance with billing.

Employers Shifting Costs

In an effort to reduce their costs, employers are shifting more responsibility for the cost of care to their employees, according to the 2013 survey of U.S. Employers by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. The survey found that the number one way employers are controlling cost of health care is by making employees pay for more of the cost of care.  Increasing employee’s financial responsibility was favored by 38 percent of those surveyed by Deloitte as a way to manage costs.

This change can be seen in the growth of  the number of plans that have a deductible and the increasing amuont of that deductible.  A study by the Kaiser Foundation found that in 2006, 55 percent of employer plans had a deductible, and in 2013, 78 percent of employer plans had a deductible.   In addition, the Kaiser study found that the average deductible amount for a single individual grew from $584 to $1,135 during the same period.

The Deloitte survey found that employers believe the lack of transparency in the cost of health care as the number one reason for the high cost of care.  The Deloitte survey said obtaining better transparency in cost was an imperative.  In this employers and employees agree; both want to know how much a health care service is going to cost and both are making decisions about the type of care and where they will obtain care based on cost.