Consumers accustomed to going online to compare the cost of cars, furniture and vacations can now do the same with medical procedures in Massachusetts. That’s good news for employers who have long struggled to control health premiums by helping workers become informed consumers of health care.
As of October 1, all health insurance plans in Massachusetts have Web tools that allow customers to access real-time health care cost and quality information. The online tools also permit people to estimate their annual out-of-pocket costs and track their health-care expenses.
The tolls were mandated under the 2012 Massachusetts health care cost control law.
Patients are now able to compare the costs and outcomes of more than a thousand procedures - from knee and shoulder replacements to imaging and laboratory work – at various hospitals and clinics in Massachusetts. The result is that consumers can save money on their out-of-pocket medical costs while saving employers money on direct health care payments and future premium costs.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the commonwealth’s health insurance companies are working together to help employers and their workers utilize the new health care cost and quality tools. AIM and the insurers have planned a series of free, informational Webinars that will explain how employers may compare cost and quality information for health care services and communicate the information to employees.
Employers play an important role in helping to lower annual health care costs by encouraging employees to use lower-cost, high-quality health care providers. Employees often don’t understand that the cost of an MRI varies greatly from one provider to the next – in some cases by thousands of dollars.
The first Webinar will be conducted with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care on Thursday, November 6 at 10 am. Webinars with other health plans will be scheduled during the next four months.
Meawnile, the Web tools may be found here:
Aetna Health Insurance WellMatch (currently available for employers with 750 or more employees)
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Now iKnow (HPHC members must log into their account to access the tool’s link)
Health New England (HNE members must log into their account to access the tool’s link)
Encourage your employees to use these resources. Your broker or health insurance representative can provide educational materials for your employees now and again during your open enrollment. It might take time for them to use the tools regularly but the results will be worth your effort so remind them often.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you tried the tools and have feedback on them.