What we, and independent health-care experts at Mercer Consulting, have found is that individually owned and directed health-care coverage has a startlingly positive effect on costs for both employees and the state. What follows is a summary of our experience:
State employees enrolled in the consumer-driven plan will save more than $8 million in 2010 compared to their coworkers in the old-fashioned preferred provider organization (PPO) alternative. In the second straight year in which we've been forced to skip salary increases, workers switching to the HSA are adding thousands of dollars to their take-home pay.
Most important, we are seeing significant changes in behavior, and consequently lower total costs.
It turns out that, when someone is spending his own money alone for routine expenses, he is far more likely to ask the questions he would ask if purchasing any other good or service: "Is there a generic version of that drug?" "Didn't I take that same test just recently?" "Where can I get the colonoscopy at the best price?"
By contrast, the prevalent model of health plans in this country in effect signals individuals they can buy health care on someone else's credit card. A fast-food meal costs most Americans more out of pocket than a visit to the doctor. What seems free will always be overconsumed, compared to the choices a normal consumer would make. Hence our plan's immense savings.
Americans can make sound, thrifty decisions about their own health. If national policy trusted and encouraged them to do so, our skyrocketing health-care costs would decelerate.