Despite the efforts, and early successes, of managed care and other cost-containment strategies, costs for healthcare services continue to rise dramatically, threatening our economic balance. Over the past five years, we have seen double-digit percentage increases in costs for healthcare claims in the private and government sectors of employee-based programs and entitlement programs (Medicare and Medicaid). The New York Times recently reported that, despite the growth in the economy, the slow growth of jobs is directly related to employers’ fear of increasing expenses related to employee healthcare premiums and claims.
We are at a critical juncture as we near 12% of our population aging over 65. We live longer with easier to maintain chronic conditions. Medical technology advances are expensive, and the aging baby boomers demand easy access to health services that get us better, faster. We all seek elective wellness services that make us feel and look better. NBC’s Today Show recently broadcast a segment about the new 30 being 50. Our culture values youth so much that we seem to be willing to pay anything to re-capture the physical and emotional feelings associated with it.
Today, consumers are driving the process of market reform in healthcare and wellness. Consumers are demanding that healthcare and wellness work hand in hand—because everyone wants to “be well.” Prevention is the best strategy to the cost and quality problem. In the book “Market Driven Healthcare” by Harvard PhD Regina Herzlinger, she projects that only market-based incentives—that is, incentives for being healthy and well—will result in the kind of quality, satisfaction and cost outcomes that make sense to consumers and payers. Today, we are seeing Health Savings Accounts attached to High Deductible Health Plans change the landscape of insurance and reimbursement. The wellness industry is experiencing explosive growth, thanks to changing beliefs about prevention and a push from the corporate and government payers. We are spending pre and post tax income to look better, feel better and live better.
The bottom line? The landscape is changing rapidly, and changing in a way that gives consumers real financial incentives to maintain personal health and wellness.