Health Savings Accounts Empower People

Alaska seems to be a predictor of health care in the future under the Affordable Care Act. We have a very limited market for healthcare, limits on accessibility, limits on number of providers and a generally small market overall. As we know, this leads to many difficulties: few primary care physicians taking Medicare and Medicaid patients, much higher costs than in the lower 48, and crowding out of the uninsured by those with employer provided health insurance.

These difficulties are predictive of what is occurring in the rest of this country. Fewer and fewer primary care doctors are willing to see Medicare and Medicaid patients and health insurance costs are rising dramatically.

What if consumers could manage their own health care decisions and were afforded the opportunity to choose a provider, select a hospital and choose a laboratory for their medical needs? It would be kind of like going into a restaurant and choosing from a menu and knowing the costs before ordering-a novel idea. Today it is difficult to determine the costs of a procedure until after the fact. One doesn’t see many price lists posted in a doctor’s office or in a hospital. Maybe this is because we are not connected to the costs of the service; so, why care? We should care because every day these health resources are becoming more limited and overuse leads to waste. Some day you may need a service and it is not there.

Health Savings Accounts empower the “customers” of health care by giving them the responsibility and freedom to shop around for the best value for their medical needs. What if your employer gave you a salary increase of $6,000 in lieu of family health insurance, all of which you could put into an HSA tax free? Then you buy a high deductible ($10,000) health insurance policy which covers your family in case of a medical catastrophe. You are empowered and have the freedom to choose your provider versus going to a designated in-network provider required by a faceless¬† health insurance person on the other end of the phone.

Here is a website you can use to determine costs for various procedures, both facilities and physicians. For more on HSAs, go to John Goodman of the Independent Institute.