The demand for data transparency is mounting

By Suzy K. Johnson for Employee Benefit Adviser

December 2003 was a great time for health plans in America. This was when high deductible health plans and the underlying health savings accounts were enacted into law by the federal government.

With this law, we were provided the ability to engage employees more directly in the cost of their care with the elimination of copays and Rx cards under these plans.

What many brokers don’t realize is that the law allows anyone to fund the underlying health savings accounts. This means that employers can and should be shown how to use the savings in premiums created by moving to these types of plans to “fund” employees’ health savings accounts. This can result in a win/win for all.

When employers fund the employee’s HSA, they provide the employee the ability to direct additional money into a flex spending type of plan (HSA) that has much higher limits for funding, and allows the same expenses to be reimbursed along with long-term care premiums, COBRA premiums and Medicare Part B expenses. These accounts don’t have the “use it lose it” risk that flex medical reimbursement plans have always included.

A top priority
Now what we need is transparency data from the hospitals and providers. It is my belief that if every American was required to have a high deductible health plan paired with a health savings account only, the demand for transparency data would be palpable and the pressure forced on providers and hospitals to comply would amplify.

Right now the transparency data is not available and this needs to change. If the only plans employers could offer were HDHP plans with HSA accounts and if employers provided funding to help their employees to be able to afford the additional exposure shifted to them, the demand for transparency data would suddenly become top priority and the government would demand it of providers.

Yes, they are more complicated to understand, and yes, the programs require more employee education and hand holding. Nothing good happens when we sit on the sidelines. Let’s commit to becoming part of the solution!

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