Health care has become increasingly expensive. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, spending grew 4.3 percent to $3.3 trillion in 2016, representing more than $10,000 in health expenditures per person. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1997 and 2016, the price of inpatient services grew 195 percent, while outpatient service costs rose 200 percent.
Such growth has pushed unions to focus on finding low-cost health care coverage and encouraging plan members to be savvy about health care spending. These efforts include increased education and providing tools so individuals can better understand the costs associated with health care. With a little work, members can be encouraged to find cost savings through price comparisons.
Locating Tools and Classes for Members
According to a study by Public Agenda, comparing prices and shopping around to find low-cost health care coverage is often difficult for workers. As a trustee, you can help make this process easier to understand and more accessible.
To start gathering information, go to your insurance provider and ask what tools they offer. Next, check with the state governments of all states in which your members live. Some have developed databases compiling insurance claims to provide detailed information on care costs. Inform members of any available price comparison tools.
Your union can consider sponsoring subscriptions to sites, like Healthcare Bluebook, that can be used by members to compare the prices of similar services. Although many sites still fall somewhat short of providing exact information on health care pricing, these tools offer the best available data to help your members make informed decisions.
Communicating How to Leverage Low-Cost Health Care
Communicating with members is of utmost importance. Without adequate communication, members won't see be able to enjoy all the benefits of their health care plan, as they won't know what those benefits are. It's important to communicate with them through all available methods: emails, printed newsletters, posters, one-on-one conversations, group meetings, social media and so on. When members have these tools at their fingertips, they're more likely to use them.
Connect members to the cost of care and empower them to take control of their health. As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Members may be able to save money and enjoy better long-term health by taking steps to address potential problems before they become chronic conditions. These steps may include eating healthy, exercising regularly and keeping up with routine wellness visits.
Although low-cost health care coverage can be difficult to find, it's not impossible as long as trustees are willing to gather and disseminate information to members on the best savings methods.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to cofounding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book "Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan." She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.